Born in Aÿ-en-Champagne in the Marne region of France on 6th April 1860, René Lalique began his career as a designer of fine jewellery before later turning his hand to glass making and going on to become one of the most famous glass designers of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. He died in 1945, at the age of 85.
The Early Life of René Lalique
Although Lalique’s family moved to Paris when he was very young they returned to Aÿ for the summer holidays annually. His birthplace, which he remained deeply attached to for the duration of his life, was a huge influence on the naturalistic style of his glasswork. On the death of his father, Lalique began work as an apprentice to jeweller Louis Aucoc. During this time, he attended evening classes at the École des Arts Décoratifs. He continued these studies in London for a further 2 years. In 1885, having gained recognition as an independent designer for some of the most established jewellers; Cartier, Boucheron and many others, he set up his own business designing and making jewellery and glass pieces.
Lalique’s Art Glass Style & Technique
Lalique’s art glass creations drew much of their influence from nature. It was around 1883 that he began pursuing increasingly more innovative experimentation in glass. Early works used the familiar “lost wax” technique where the model is made in wax and a mold is formed around the model. The wax is then melted and molten glass is poured into the mold.
Lalique and Coty
In 1907, Lalique was approached by the perfumer François Coty who was so impressed with his glasswork that he wanted him to use his talents for the benefit of the perfume industry. Through their collaboration, they revolutionised the perfume industry; making perfume available in attractive bottles at affordable prices for the first time ever. From this point on Lalique began to focus all his attention on more industrial glass production techniques. The venture was such a success that Lalique opened his own glassworks at Combs-la-Ville in 1909. A larger factory was established at Wingen-sur-Moder in Alsace-Lorraine in 1921 and by the ’30s Rene Lalique was world renowned as the most important designer of his time.
Lalique glass is lead based and either mold blown or pressed. Characteristically the glass is crystal in combination with acid-etched relief. Later some items were made in as many as ten colors (red, amber, and green among them) and occasionally accented with enameling.
During the Art Nouveau period, Lalique was well known for a wide variety of objects including perfume bottles, vases, inkwells, decorative boxes, and bookends. Favoured motifs during this period were dancing nymphs, fish, dragonflies, and foliage.
As the Art Deco style arose during the ’20s and ’30s, Lalique designed several vases and bowls that were decorated with stylized birds, florals, and geometric patterns that captured the new cleaner lines of the modern age. In addition to vases, clocks, automobile mascots, stemware, and bottles, many other useful objects were produced.
The Paris Exhibition in 1925, when he showed his new designs to the world, marked the pinnacle of his career as a glassmaker and a triumph for the Art Deco movement.
His techniques with glass gave rise to a style that was depicted by iced surfaces; the contrast between clear and frosted glass, ornate relief patterns and often applied or inlaid colour with enamel or stained glass. By blowing into moulds or pressing the glass Lalique was able to produce partially realistic designs in relief.
Most glass was clear or opalescent glass and signed via engraving or in the mould “R. Lalique”. The R. Lalique signature was only used until 1945 with the death of Rene. At that time, Rene Lalique’s son Marc took over the company and the signature dropped the ‘R’ to become ‘Lalique ~ France’. Production of many pieces produced prior to 1945 ceased following Rene’s death although some are still in production albeit with a different signature. The firm is still in operation today.Identifying a Lalique Piece
Where to find Lalique Glasswork
We have a wide selection of Lalique sculptures at our gallery on Portabello Road, which can be viewed either by appointment or online. The collection includes a variety of car mascots, including the beautifully detailed Coq Nain mascot, and a stunning array of salvers, bowls, pintrays and dishes. Perhaps most notable of the collection is the Calypso Salver, featuring a stunning depiction of water nymphs.