‘Lalique & Mucha: Drawing Inspiration’ On View at Salmagundi Club




Rene Lalique, Tête de Femme et Pensée Plaque de Pendentif , India ink and gouache. Image courtesy Salmagundi Club

On view from March 1 through April 30, 2022, the Salmagundi Club presents Lalique & Mucha: Drawing Inspiration, an exhibition showcasing the drawings and inspirations of René Lalique and Alphonse Mucha, two of the world’s leading luxury designers. The show features the largest collection of drawings by Lalique outside of France, in dialogue with Mucha’s book of motifs and drawings, Documents Decoratifs (1901). Mucha was a member of the Salmagundi Club from 1922 until his death, and was a friend and competitor to Lalique. Both iconic artists hold an important place in the development of, and influence on, the Art Nouveau movement.

René Jules Lalique (April 6, 1860 – May 1, 1945) was born in Aÿ-en-Champagne in the Marne region of France, and grew up in Paris. In 1885, he opened his own business, and became renowned as both a master glassmaker and a jeweler with an incredible unique and innovative style for the time. In his jewelry-making practice he pushed against and expanded the traditional approach, by combining precious gems and metals with semi-precious stones, ivory, mother-of-pearl, glass, and enamel. The materials he chose became central to his designs, as he selected key elements in each piece for the light, color and power they possessed, rather than their declared value.

Lalique’s interest in the natural form was cultivated during his summers spent in the countryside of his birthplace. The female form, flora and fauna were the three primary creative influences on his imagination, and these sources of inspiration are observable in the selection of 41 drawings included in this exhibition. As seen in Tête de Femme et Pensée Plaque de Pendentif [Woman’s Head and Pansy Pendant Plate] (c. 1895-1906), made with Indian ink and gouache on BFK-Rives vegetable parchment, Lalique has poetically integrated a female face in the center of a pansy flower. Interestingly, the flower name “pensée” in French means “thought,” and the pansy was regarded as a symbol of remembrance—a detail which the artist may have intentionally used as a central concept when creating this piece. Lalique used these sketches in ink on parchment to plan his jewelry ideas and present them to clients. Representing a period of time from about 1894-1910, these works illustrate his thought process as he integrated geometry and natural forms in his design aesthetic.

L-R Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860-1939) ~ Rene’ Jules Lalique (1860-1945). Images courtesy Salmagundi Club

Alphonse Mucha (July 24, 1860 – July 14, 1939) was born in Ivančice in southern Moravia, then a province of the Austrian Empire, currently a region of the Czech Republic. At an early age Mucha showed a talent for drawing, as well as music. He went to Vienna at age 19, subsequently visiting other cities in Europe, in an effort to see and study art. During this time he took employment where he could find it, making portraits, decorative art, lettering for tombstones, and apprenticed as a theater scenery painter. In 1988 he moved to Paris to continue his artistic education, after which he began working as an illustrator which led him to be hired by French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt to design theatrical posters. Commissions for advertising posters followed, and the fame of his posters led to his wide-spread success and international acclaim.

In 1901 Mucha created Documents Decoratifs, a series of seventy-two printed plates of drawings and watercolors that represented techniques of how floral, vegetal and natural motifs could be used in decorative design. This project coincided with his teaching at the Academy Colarossi in Paris, and the publication offered a foundational guidebook for students who desired to learn Art Nouveau motifs. Documents Decoratifs (1901) will be presented alongside the collection of René Lalique’s drawings, highlighting the similarities and differences in the two artist’s approaches and themes.

Curator Bill Indursky further explains, “Lalique and Mucha were friends and competitors early in their careers within the jewelry business. They shared the zeitgeist for floral based study and design; a key element in Art Nouveau work. In our display of both these master designers’drawings, you can see how botanicals and insects are abstracted into rich jewelry and adornment.”

The exhibition is in the Parlor Gallery and Grand Stair Gallery and is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 1:00 to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday. Lalique & Mucha: Drawing Inspiration will be on view through April 30, 2022 at Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue between 11th/12th Streets in Greenwich Village, NYC.