Famous Glass Art: Gallé

A Look into the Life and Times of Émile Gallé

How many remember the Art Nouveau Movement? This guy is considered to be one of the main forces behind it. Look up this time in any of the books out there, Gallé, Émile is one of the top names to be found.

One of the reasons he is considered to be one of the driving forces is due to his naturalistic approach. His name and reputation hold particularly high during the late 19th century into the early 20th centuries.

Just where did he get his inspirations? He got them from nature. This is what caused many to call him a “naturalist.” He combined all of this with a Japanese feel. His work was given many nicknames over his time, one, in particular, was “poetry in a glass.”

A Brief History of His Life and Legacy

He was born in the town of Nancy, a small town in the Eastern part of France. His father was a glassmaker too. It was almost destined that Émile would follow in his father’s footsteps, even if he had other ideas. He began his schooling early. He studied everything from botany to philosophy and art. He was rather skilled with the academics. He got very high marks in everything he did.

He later joined his father at the factory he owned and worked in. Émile further his education by doing extensive traveling, when he wasn’t working in his father’s shop. He made extensive trips to Europe. He studied everything about glassmaking and all of its elements.

One he returned to his hometown of Nancy, he used this knowledge to his advantage. He started out with just clear glass work and went from there. His father later retired and Émile took over. It was during this time that Émile really started to shine. It happened around 1877. He began experimenting with all kinds of stuff, things like enameling and cameo became a staple in his glassmaking.

It wasn’t until about a year later that Émile really got noticed. He attended and won a Paris exhibition. He got one of the highest honors there, the “Grand Prix.” However, Émile was not happy at all during this time. In spite of the accolades, he was getting, he felt some things were missing.

He packed up and went home. He wanted to make some of his own. He later said he felt the exhibition did not “look to the future in any way.” He came home to Nancy and adopted his own shop, much like his father did before him. He began experimenting with his own designs and glasswork.

Looking to the Future

His shop started doing well. Émile’s work was definitely getting to be in high demand. He had over 300 people working for him. His shop even began using industrial elements. However, Émile’s hunger could not be quenched. He didn’t want to stop there. He wanted to continue to experiment and improve the glassmaking process. This choice went a long way to ensuring that he would be at the forefront of this revolution.

Everything was coming together for him. He was still heavily attached to his core values, much like his father. He still experimented with plant life and other naturalistic elements. He died in 1904. His spouse took over the shop. Sadly, due to WW2, the shop would close at a time. Later on, his son-in-law picked up the slack and continued on with Émile’s work. Paul made sure his work echoed that of what Émile did.