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Louis Majorelle

Biographies
Louis Majorelle

*  1859 Toul
† 1926 Nancy


Louis Majorelle was born in Toul near Nancy in 1859. His father, Auguste, was a cabinet-maker who designed elegant furniture in the 18th-century manner and ran his own business, Maison Majorelle in Nancy, where his designs were executed. Louis Majorelle prefaced his career in 1877 by studying painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was a pupil of Jean-François Millet's. However, when his father died in 1879, Louis Majorelle returned to Nancy to take over the family business. At first he continued to make furniture in the style his father had favoured. Nancy especially was a bastion of the new style, Art nouveau, which emerged in the 1890s, was based on floral motifs, and became established primarily through the work of Émile Gallé. At first motifs drawn from nature were mainly used by glass designers but it was not long before their influence extended to furniture shapes and decoration. Louis Majorelle also followed the new style. Although Louis Majorelle set great store by craftsmanship and consummate workmanship, with time he came to using factory methods for manufacturing furniture. This step enabled him to keep down the production costs for his elaborate designs, which in turn kept retail prices reasonable. Majorelle showed interior decoration at the 1900 "Exposition Universelle et Internationale" in Paris. From 1900 Majorelle began to collaborate with Daum Frères. Majorelle was by then designing metal objects such as feet and mounts for Auguste Daum's glass lampshades. In exchange, Daum Frères made the glass elements for Majorelle's own collections. Louis Majorelle's designs became increasingly extravagant. 1901 saw the foundation of the École de Nancy, an association of several firms and workshops in Nancy that made crafts objects in the Art nouveau style. The glass artist and furniture designer Émile Gallé was its first head, with Majorelle as his deputy. In 1916 the Majorelle factory was severely damaged by fire. Louis Majorelle fled to Paris. He would not return to Nancy until the war was over and he could resume his work. Following the trend toward the new Art déco style, Majorelle's designs became increasingly formal and more austere as the 1920s progressed. In 1925 Majorelle again participated in the important "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderns" in Paris, where he was also on the jury. Together with Alfred Lévy, Majorelle designed an interior for the Nancy Pavilion at the exhibition. Louis Majorelle died in 1926. Alfred Lévy, who had long managed the factory, became director of Maison Majorelle. Until 1956, when the firm shut down, Maison Majorelle continued to make both elaborate and more modest (and modestly priced) objects.