Louis Majorelle

When it comes to Art Nouveau, there are a few names that can instantly be linked with the art style but perhaps none more so than Louis Majorelle. Majorelle was born in 1859 in Toul, France, to a father who was already designing high-quality furniture. Auguste Majorelle was running his own business based in Nancy called ‘Maison Majorelle’, and was producing furniture in the 18th century style. As a result, Louis spent much of his childhood watching his father in action and developing his own style.

In his youth, Louis went to the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he studied architecture and painting. Sadly, his father passed away when he was around 20 years old and so Louis decided to quit his studies and take over the business. This decision was a huge risk because he was choosing to become the artistic director for a successful business at such a young age, but it was one that he was passionate about. Ultimately, it was a role he would stay in for many years to come.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Louis Majorelle started to become inspired by the Art Nouveau style and therefore began working naturalistic forms into his work. The style was generally introduced by glass manufacturers but he liked what he had seen, and was especially impressed with the nature motifs seen in the work produced by Emile Gallé.

Louis Majorelle
Louis Majorelle Desk

Although business had been steady since his takeover, this was all about to change. At the turn of the century, Majorelle took a bedroom and dining room set to the Paris Exposition Universalle. Each piece boasted flower motifs, with a particular focus on lilies and orchids, and was designed with mosaic inlays of exotic woods and mother-of-pearl. Many visitors and experts to the event were impressed with his work and it would go on to create a whole new style of Art Nouveau, Majorelle’s work was imitated by numerous furniture makers.

 

A year later, the Ecole de Nancy, which was a collaborative group of artists and designers, was created by Majorelle and a number of others. Gallé was the lead member of the group which looked to maintain the high-quality of work being produced in the area; artists from Lorraine were the largest producers of Art Nouveau at the time. In 1904, Gallé passed away whilst Majorelle held his Vice-President role which he was given at the very beginning. Through exhibitions, schools for industrial arts, and their own shows, the group tirelessly worked to increase the reputation of Lorraine decorative artists and were constantly promoting work. Louis Majorelle quickly gained a reputation for being a lead figure in this group and could be found at every event, exhibition, and show.

 

In 1904, Majorelle decided to expand his horizons and went on to acquire Maison de l’Art which was a shop in Paris, owned by Samuel Bing. In addition to growing his own business, Majorelle helped the Paris Salon. Between 1898 and 1910, Majorelle enjoyed phenomenal success with stores in four French cities as well as workshops producing metalwork, fabrics, lighting, and of course, furniture.

The start of the war meant the end for many businesses but Majorelle attempted to keep his business going; he wanted to keep producing in Nancy no matter what. However, 1916 saw his entire inventory catch fire in an event that was apparently completely unrelated to the war. After the factories on the rue de Vieil-Aitre burned out, inventory was limited. For the rest of the war, Majorelle moved to Paris where he worked in other people’s workshops. Once the war was over, his factory and shop reopened though he still worked with Daum glassworks. Majorelle’s style quickly changed and he entered a new era in his life, an era of Art Deco.

 

Sadly, Majorelle passed away in 1926 before he had the chance to rebuild his empire. As a result of the war, the Majorelle family couldn’t afford to live in the Villa Majorelle and much of the estate had to be sold off. In 1931, the last of Majorelle’s factories was closed.

 

Villa Majorelle