Biography of Rene Jules Lalique
Rene Lalique (1860 – 1945)
Born on April 6, 1860, Rene Jules Lalique was a renowned glass designer who became known for his stunning creations of jewelry, chandeliers, vases, clocks, perfume bottles, automobile hood ornaments and many other glass art pieces. Through years of school and practice, Lalique’s work became well known and his legacy still stands today.
Lalique spent the early years of his life traveling with his family, back and forth between Ay, the village where he was born, and a suburb of Paris where his father, a Parisian mercantile agent, worked. Although every summer they traveled back home, Lalique’s attachment to the countryside is what inspired his later naturalistic glasswork.
His career began in 1872 at the ripe age of twelve, when Lalique attended College Turgot and began studying drawing with Justin-Marie Lequin. After his father’s death four years later, Lalique began to work as an apprentice to the leading luxury jeweler and goldsmith, Louis Aucoc. While working for Aucoc, Rene gained practical experience and skills and the properties of a jeweler’s raw materials, as well as attended evening classes at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs to further his education. In 1878, Lalique moved to London and continued his studies at Sydenham College located in the Crystal Palace. This environment was new and free to Rene, and during the two years spent in London, he developed a unique and naturalistic style that would later become his trademark.
Over the next four years, Lalique began working as a freelance jewelry designer under his relative M. Vuilleret, and spent a year illustrating independent jewelry designs with Auguste Petit on rue de Chabanais. During this time, he created designs for Aucoc, Boucheron, Cartier, Destape, Gariod, Hamelin, Jacta and many others. Lalique also worked with Varenne, in a two-year partnership. Varenne placed Lalique’s drawings with jewelry manufacturers, which bore the trade stamp Lalique & Varenne.
In 1885, Lalique took over Jules Destapes’ jewelry workshop, on Place Gaillon and began to concentrate on the innovative jewelry that was making him well known. He increased the use of novel and inexpensive materials in his creations, including translucent enamels, semiprecious stones, ivory and hard stones. One year after, Rene Lalique married Marie-Louise Lambert, and gave birth to a daughter, Georgette, who sadly died in 1910.
By 1889, Vever and Boucheron were including collaborative works by Lalique in their displays at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Later, Lalique took part in a competition organized by the Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs on the theme of a drinking vessel. He won second place and received 500 francs for his Thistle Flowers goblet. Lalique was also awarded a medal for his Satyr and Vine Shoots mug.
In 1894, Lalique opened exhibits for the first time at the Salon de la Societe des Artista Francais, where he remained a regular participant until 1911. At this time, he also began designing stage jewelry for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt as well as pieces for Sigfried Bing’s Maison de I’Art Nouveau.
At the age of 45, Lalique’s first retail shop was opened in Vendome. Just three years later, he created his first perfume bottles and was commissioned by Fancios Coty to design his perfume labels. The teamwork of the two men would ultimately revolutionize the perfume industry by presenting fine perfumes in attractive containers
In 1911, Lalique opened an exhibit at the Salon de la Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts and for the first time, devoted the show entirely to glass. He later began designing chandeliers and glass panels for the interior of luxury trains, such as Compagnie des Wagons-Lits, which became the Orient Express. Lalique also designed the first car mascot for Citroen and later designed 27 models for companies such as Bently, Bugatti, Delage, Hispano-Suiza, Rolls Royce and Voison.
Unfortunately, during World War I the factory at Combs-la-Ville was forced to close. But due to rapid growth, the design and construction of a new factory began in the Alsace region. The factory was completed in 1921 and remains the factory that still produces the R. Lalique crystals today.
By 1926, Lalique was not only designing car mascots, but he also took to windows, such as in the Saint-Nicoise church in Reims, and luxurious satin-finished vases, bowls and statuettes. He also worked on the fountains for the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysees, the main doors of Prince Asaka Yasuhiko’s palace in Tokyo and the glass decorations of the Church of St. Matthew in St. Helier, Isle of Jersey, UK.
Lalique’s new boutique opened in September of 1935 and continues to serve as the main Lalique showroom today. Four years later, in the start of World War II and onset force caused the factory to close. It remained occupied by the Germans for six years, until the war came to an end. In 1945, Lalique died at the age of 85, but his business still continues to bloom and carry on the legacy of his stunning creations.