Not currently on display at the V&A

Armchair

1899-1900 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The cabinet-maker Louis Majorelle was one of the most influential designers of the Art Nouveau movement. He trained as a painter before inheriting his father's cabinet-making business in Nancy, France, in 1879. At first he continued to make furniture in the popular Rococo Revival style, but during the 1890s he came under the influence of Emile Gallé at the Ecole de Nancy and began to design slender pieces of furniture--such as this armchair--ornamented with carving and marquetry, using naturalistic floral motifs and forms. Although the carving of the walnut frame on this chair is relatively simple, the design is carefully considered to give the effect of flowing, branch-like forms.

Though Majorelle considered structure and proportion more important than decorative ornament, and constantly sought new forms for his furniture, he also became a highly original designer of ornament. His early work with Rococo Revival design may have been one reason for his facility in designing free-flowing, elegantly curved forms. He used plant forms as inspiration but re-interpreted them as sophisticated, semi-abstract motifs. The silk upholstery on this chair, which exactly reproduces its original cover, illustrates clearly how he used nature as an inspiration but not directly as a model.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved walnut, stained; back and seat covered with embroidered and painted satin with a fringe (reproduction of the original upholstery)
Brief Description
French, 1899-1900, d.& m. Majorelle, Donaldson Col
Physical Description
Arm chair of carved walnut stained green; the back and seat are covered with embroidered and painted mauve satin enriched with a fringe, a reproduction of the original upholstery. The front supports of the arms are carried backwards and downwards to meet the back legs at foot level, providing a diagonal stretcher at the sides of the chair. The semi-circular, pediment-shaped top of the back is decorated in openwork with wavy leaves and flowers. The back which is continuous with the seat is stuffed and the satin covering is painted with leaves and stalks bearing flowers embroidered in white silk; the outer side of the back is also covered with satin. The feet of the front legs are in the form of leaves.
Dimensions
  • Height: 128cm
  • Width: 74cm
  • Depth: 82cm
Dimensions taken from departmental catalogue. Not checked on object
Style
Gallery Label
  • Europe and America 1800-1900, room 101 ART NOUVEAU ARMCHAIR 1899-1900 Shown at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1900 The French Art Nouveau furniture shown at the Paris 1900 exhibition did not impress British commentators. They thought it was too decorative and disregarded the rules of honest design. When Sir George Donaldson presented the V&A with his gift of furniture purchased at that exhibition there was an outcry. This armchair, however, won lukewarm approval for its 'comparative simplicity'. France, Nancy; designed and made by Louis Majorelle Stained walnut; replacement satin upholstery Given by Sir George Donaldson(05/08/2015)
  • ARMCHAIR 2001-1900 'American and European Art and Design 1800-1900' English commentators were not impressed by the French Art Nouveau furniture shown at the Paris 1900 Exhibition, and Sir George Donaldson's gift of furniture from that exhibition to the Victoria & Albert Museum created an outcry. However the Cabinet-Maker and Art Furnisher singled out this armchair for approval on grounds of its 'comparative simplicity'. Given by Sir George Donaldson(1987-2006)
  • Europe and America 1800-1900, room 101 ART NOUVEAU ARMCHAIR 1899-1900 Shown at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1900 France, Nancy; designed and made by Louis Majorelle Walnut, carved and stained; replacement satin upholstery Museum no. 2001-1900 Given by Sir George Donaldson The French Art Nouveau furniture shown at the Paris 1900 exhibition did not impress British commentators. They thought it was too decorative and disregarded the rules of honest design. When Sir George Donaldson presented the V&A with his gift of furniture purchased at that exhibition there was an outcry. This armchair, however, won lukewarm approval for its 'comparative simplicity'.(2006)
Credit line
Given by Sir George Donaldson
Subjects depicted
Summary
The cabinet-maker Louis Majorelle was one of the most influential designers of the Art Nouveau movement. He trained as a painter before inheriting his father's cabinet-making business in Nancy, France, in 1879. At first he continued to make furniture in the popular Rococo Revival style, but during the 1890s he came under the influence of Emile Gallé at the Ecole de Nancy and began to design slender pieces of furniture--such as this armchair--ornamented with carving and marquetry, using naturalistic floral motifs and forms. Although the carving of the walnut frame on this chair is relatively simple, the design is carefully considered to give the effect of flowing, branch-like forms.



Though Majorelle considered structure and proportion more important than decorative ornament, and constantly sought new forms for his furniture, he also became a highly original designer of ornament. His early work with Rococo Revival design may have been one reason for his facility in designing free-flowing, elegantly curved forms. He used plant forms as inspiration but re-interpreted them as sophisticated, semi-abstract motifs. The silk upholstery on this chair, which exactly reproduces its original cover, illustrates clearly how he used nature as an inspiration but not directly as a model.
Bibliographic Reference
George Donaldson, 'The Victoria and Albert Museum. Gift of "New Art" Furniture for Circulation', The Magazine of Art, 1901, pp. 466-471 (illus.). Valérie Thomas, 'L'École de Nancy au Victoria & Albert Museum: Une difficile reconnaissance', Arts Nouveau, no. 31 (Sept. 2015), p. 15, fig. 7.
Collection
Accession Number
2001-1900

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record createdNovember 27, 2000
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