is one of the most influential artists
of the nineteenth century
. He is well known for his jewelry
and glass designs. His glassmaking
firm, Cristal Lalique
still survives today. Lalique was a prominent figure in the art noveau
period. His jewelry and designs often depicted nature and used the flowing, organic lines
that define this period of art.
Lalique was born in Ay, France on April 6, 1860. He was an only child, whose "father was a merchant, selling novelty goods", and an artist on the side. It was apparent that Lalique had artistic talent when he was sixteen years old, and was apprenticed to Louis Aucoc, a French goldsmith. Aucoc and his business were very influential to Lalique’s later works. Most of Lalique’s works are jewelry and containers. Lalique was also a very good drafter. Many of his works are sketched out before he creates them, and at the age of eleven, he won an award for drawing. But it was his jewelry that made Lalique so famous. His works were admired and worn by famous people such as Sarah Bernhardt, an English actress, and Emma Calve, an opera singer.
Although his works were very beautiful, critics proclaimed Lalique’s jewelry to be too large and gaudy to wear. Lalique however did not mind these critiques. This may be because Lalique was more concerned with the statement his jewelry made, and not whether it was wearable or not. As Bayer states in his book The Art of Rene Lalique, "Lalique made his jewels, not to be worn, but to be admired". Because of this, Lalique created beautifully crafted pieces that have a deeper meaning. A favorite theme of Lalique’s is "women in her many guises". A piece that illustrates this clearly is Lalique’s "Dragonfly Corsage Ornament". This piece combines woman, a dragonfly, a fish, and eagle’s claws. This piece, when first looked upon seems calm and beautiful. After a closer examination, the observer notices the great violence the piece holds. A fish is swallowing the woman, and there are great claws of gold protruding from the piece.
Recently, I visited the National Gallery in Washington, DC. While I was there, I went to visit an art noveau exhibit. The "Dragonfly Corsage Ornament" by Lalique was one of the featured pieces of the exhibit. When I fist looked at the piece, I remember being moved by the gracefulness of the jade woman. By transforming her arm into wings, Lalique was able to create a "fantasy creature… alluding to a dream world beyond physical appearances". The woman looks peaceful and quiet. Upon further examination of the piece, I realized that there was a definite violent theme to the piece. The piece, upon first glance, calms and awes the viewer, but after the viewer fully takes in the piece, they are disturbed by what they find there.
The "Dragonfly Corsage Ornament" is symbolic of woman’s nature. Lalique has created a piece that, upon first glance, is graceful and beautiful. However, after further investigation, the piece is dark and violent. Lalique is drawing a parallel between the corsage and women. He is saying that at first, women are beautiful and charming, but after further investigation, they also have a deeper, darker side.
Like the "Dragonfly Corsage Ornament", all of Lalique’s pieces are commentaries about nature and human tendencies. Not only did Lalique concentrate greatly on his craftsmanship; he also focused on the message that he portrayed through his pieces. Lalique is a true art noveau artist through his use of organic themes and lines, as well as though the statement that he makes through his pieces. Lalique is truly one of the most influential artists of the art nouveau era.