Lalique, more than a name
The name Lalique is the stuff that dreams are made on. It evokes the brilliance of jewellery, the wonder of transparency, the sparkle of crystal. Before it became a brand name, it was the name of a man, an artist of genius, René-Jules Lalique and of his heirs who shared his creative flame.
René Lalique, an exceptional artist and talented industrialist
A single artist, and one of the greatest, René Lalique, had the gift of sharing a frisson of new beauty with the world... Henri Clouzot
From his birth in 1860 to his death in 1945, René Lalique lived two successive lives as an artist and, each time, he rose to become one of the major protagonists to stamp their personality on Art Nouveau and Art Deco, in diametrically opposed styles.
The inventor of modern jewellery
Drawing inspiration from nature and daring enough to use the female body as an ornamental component, René Lalique created some of the most representative jewels of the Art Nouveau style. His pendants, his brooches, his necklaces, his tiaras, his opera-glasses, his combs... were original, imaginative works, produced using the most elaborate of techniques. He would not hesitate to employ materials little used or considered until that time, such as horn, ivory, semi-precious stones, enamel and, of course, glass, which he combined with gold and precious stones. In his eyes, it was better to strive for something beautiful than for an outward display of luxury... and the feel took precedence over the material.
Initially, his avant-garde jewellery attracted a principally intellectual and artistic elite, who disregarded convention, capable of appreciating the beauty of an object in spite of the relative poverty of the materials employed. Among his most famous clients, the actress, Sarah Bernhardt, and the oil magnate, Calouste Gulbenkian. Finally, he whom Emile Gallé presented as the inventor of modern jewellery, enjoyed an unequalled triumph at the Universal Exhibition of 1900. But success also brought with it would-be imitators. Lalique was far from flattered. An inventor who trod his own path, he hated being copied. Weary of being plagiarised, he would gradually set a course for other horizons. Glass had already been among his interests for some time. A new career was in the offing...
Poet of glass
Admittedly, his earliest experiments date back to the 1890s, but his meeting with the perfumer, François Coty, in 1908 was to play a decisive role, and he started not only to design but also to produce bottles for the greatest perfumers of the age. To these were added small boxes, vases, lamps… An eclectic artist, he also designed car mascots for the luxury automobiles of the Jazz Age, decoration for trains, like the Orient Express, passenger liners, including the Normandie, boutiques… He was also interested in religious architecture, constructed extraordinary fountains...
The founding of the Verrerie d’Alsace: Lalique sets up business in Wingen-sur-Moder
Glimpsing the extraordinary potential for development open to him through the production of perfume bottles, René Lalique decided to rent the glassworks at Combs-la-Ville in the Paris region in 1909. But, very soon, it was no longer able to meet demand on its own. Therefore, in the aftermath of the Great War, taking advantage of government incentives, which were intended to make the freshly regained regions of Alsace and Moselle the showcases of France, René Lalique decided to set up business in the Northern Vosges. After approaching the factories in Meisenthal and Saint-Louis in vain, he finally decided to build his new glassworks in Wingen-sur-Moder: the Verrerie d’Alsace.
The establishment of this glassworks marked a new departure in rationalisation and conversion to a factory structure worthy of the twentieth century. As a Humanist, Lalique developed mass production in his factories in order to limit costs and allow as many people as possible access to his creations: People are the reservoir of the art of the future; they are the ones who must be initiated, instead of force feeding them on horrors that lead them astray. We must put within their reach models that will educate their eye, we must popularise the notion of aesthetics. Works of art cost too much. Let's change all that!
Suzanne Lalique (1892-1989)
The daughter of René Lalique and Alice Ledru – herself the daughter of the sculptor, Auguste Ledru, a friend of Rodin - Suzanne Lalique was regularly called upon by her father for her creativity and judgement. From 1910 onwards, she would create powder boxes and sweet boxes for him and, later, vases and other decorative pieces. Through her marriage with Paul Burty Haviland, she discovered another family of artists and came face to face with the world of porcelain. A Jill of all trades, she also brought her talent to bear in the fields of painting and textiles.
From her earliest years, she had cultivated friendships with several famous writers, including Paul Morand and Jean Giraudoux. In 1937, she was appointed to design the stage set for the play by Luigi Pirandello, Right You Are! (If You Think So), at the Comédie Française. It was the start of a long career at that prestigious theatre, during which, up to the beginning of the 1970s, Suzanne Lalique Haviland would be involved in the design, stage sets and costumes of nearly 50 plays.
Marc Lalique (1900-1977)
The son of René Lalique and Alice Ledru, Marc was born in 1900. After studying at the School of Decorative Arts in Paris, he collaborated with father as of 1922. When René died, he took over as head of the family business. He used his qualities as a technician to their best advantage to re novate the factory in Wingen-sur-Moder and modernise it. He finally abandoned glass in favour of crystal. The contrast between transparency and a satin finish found its optimal expression in the purity of this material and this particular effect was to become famous throughout the world to the extent that it is frequently synonymous with the name of Lalique. Under his drive, the Lalique crystal works quickly took its place among the great French and foreign crystal works.
Marie-Claude Lalique (1935 - 2003)
The passion that Marc displayed in his craft was to make a lasting impression on the early years of his daughter. Very early on, in fact, Marie-Claude had the chance to experience the emotion of the creative artist, who saw her work taking shape thanks to the dexterity and skill of the master glassmaker. Although the continuation of the work of her grandfather and her father was her principal objective, she was nonetheless aware that perpetuating the spirit also meant renewal. Attentive to the creative fashions and currents of her time, Marie-Claude strived to achieve the marriage of tradition and renewal.
The Lalique Company today
In February 2008, the Lalique Company was taken over by the Swiss company, Art et Fragrance. The objective of Managing Director and owner of the company, Silvio Denz, was to strengthen the brand throughout the world and increase the production output of the crystal works in Wingen-sur-Moder.
Collections of jewellery and perfumes continue to be developed alongside the traditional crystal business. Reissues of older works and contemporary designs are still produced by its master glassmakers, thus perpetuating the culture of excellence.