Technical artistry was a feature of Art Nouveau decorative arts. Glassmakers returned their work to the furnace many times, adding layers of textures and decorative elements. Historical techniques were revived and new ones invented, creating radiant colours and iridescence such as the favrile glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany. In pottery and ceramics, there were experiments with forms and glazes. Jewellers styled fashionable pieces for their elite clients. Chokers, pendants, bracelets and earrings featured semi-precious materials, sculptured ivory, tortoiseshell and enamelling. Across Europe, the new style was seen in the Netherlands (Brantjes and Rozenburg), Germany (Meisenthal and Koepping), Hungary (Zsolnay), Bohemia (Harrach, Loetz), and Scandinavia.
Emile Gallé (1846-1904) was a French glassmaker, ceramicist and furniture designer, who became one of the most influential figures within Art Nouveau and the French decorative arts. Born in Nancy, he studied botany and mineralogy in Germany before taking over his father’s glass and ceramics factory in 1874. At the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, his stylistic innovations in glass with carved cameo and pâte de verre work, were acclaimed. A cabinet making atelier was added to his factory in 1895. Between them, the École de Nancy (Gallé, Louis Majorelle, Victor Prové, Eugene Vallin and the Daum brothers) produced furniture, glassware, stained-glass, leather, ceramics and textiles. This confirmed the status of Nancy as one of the key centres of Art Nouveau.
Trained in Paris and London, René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) was unusual in not coming from an established dynasty of jewellers. He placed a value on design, as well as intrinsically rich materials such as diamonds. Lalique’s pieces were first shown in 1895, and used materials such as ivory, glass, horn, and brightly coloured gemstones. His insects, flowers and nymphs were Art Nouveau subjects in forms that highlighted detailed and delicate enamelling. He worked for private clients such as Sarah Bernhardt and retailers including Cartier and Boucheron. Barcelona jeweller Luis Masriera (1872-1958) was inspired by Lalique after visits to the Expositions Universelle in Paris. His bracelets and pendants included whimsical elements, such as dragonflies with wings that trembled as the wearer moved.
Apprenticed aged 15 to Theodore Deck, the work of Frenchman Edmond Lachenal (1855-1948) embodied a wide variety of styles and innovative glazes. From the 1890s, he also collaborated with established sculptors. One artistic relationship with Agnès de Frumerie (1869-1937) lasted nearly a decade. Born in Skövde, Sweden, De Frumerie moved to Paris in 1892. Her marriage (perhaps unusually for the time) presented no obstacle to her artistic career. She worked in bronze, marble, ceramics, glass and plaster, making groups and portrait busts. Her work developed from the classicism she grew up with in Stockholm, to the National Romantic movements in Sweden and Europe and the symbolism and Art Nouveau of France. Her artistic circle included Rodin, Gauguin, Strindberg, Mucha, Edvard Munch, Claude Debussy, and Edvard Grieg.