Art & Art History ETDs

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One of the outstanding artists of the Art Nouveau period was the French jeweler René Lalique. Despite the designation of Lalique as "les plus ropresentatif de l 'Art Nouve.1u" very little research has been done on him or the sources of his unusual jewelry. The dual purpose of this study is to establish a biography of Lalique and present a stylistic analysis of two of his sources: Classical and Japanese art. It is hoped that an analysis of the career and sources of this major figure will aid in producing a deeper understanding of the French Art Nouveau movement.

Biographical information on Lalique is found in Chapter I. Special attention is given to his participation in exhibitions between 1894 and 1900 and this discussion includes specific references to the works and the places he exhibited. Chapter II establishes Lalique's relationship to the two traditions of French nineteenth century jewelry design. Chapters III and IV are stylistic analyses of Lalique' s use of Classical and Japanese art respectively. A general back­ground of nineteenth century French interest in these two sources is provided within each chapter. Also included are suggestions as to how Lalique came into contact with each source. Examples of Lalique' s work are analyzed for specific tendencies and comparative material is offered as supporting visual evidence.

Several findings resulted from this study of Lalique's biography and two of the sources he used. Events in Lalique's life and dates of specific works demonstrate that he worked within both the conservative and the non-conservative traditions of French jewelry design. The dates of the jewelry examined in Chapters III and IV demonstrate that Lalique not only worked with Classical and Japanese motifs and styles at the same time but he often exhibited jewelry in these two styles in the same showcase. This could establish a conclusion that these were not successive stages of development in Lalique's style but rather an attempt on his part to meet the tastes of the public. The greater number of Japanese inspired works and the closer stylistic affinities between Lalique's work and his Japanese sources indicate that Japonisme was the stronger influence on Lalique between 1895 and 1908.

From these findings two other conclusions may be reached. Because he did work in both traditions of jewelry design and with two popular styles at the same time it can be noted that Lalique was attempting to maintain a foothold in two camps in relation to his career and reputation. This allowed him to have two separate, but equally large followings among connois­seurs and possible purchasers. The fact that he did pick two very popular styles in which to work indicates Lalique's ability to recognize popular tastes. The changes he made demonstrates his ability to translate them into a personal style. The combination of these conclusions results in the realization that René Lalique was not only a creative artist but also an astute businessman as well.



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UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Bainbridge Bunting

Second Committee Member

Howard David Rodee

Third Committee Member

Ralph Wayne Lewis