The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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René Lalique, 1860-1945

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1860.06.06
Place of Birth: Ay, Marne
Date of Death: 1945
Place of Death: Paris


René Lalique was an Art Nouveau jeweller, glassmaker and designer. He was born in the village of Ay in the Champagne district. In 1890 he married Marie-Louise Lambert. He married his second wife Augustine Alice, the daughter of the sculptor Auguste Ledru on 8 July 1902.


In 1879 Lalique was apprenticed with the Parisian jeweller Louis Aucoq with whom he spent his early career, working with as well as Cartier and Boucheon. In 1878 he studied at Sydenham Art College for two years, near the Crystal Palace where he developed his graphic design skills. In London he was particularly interested in the Arts and Crafts movement. His glass vases and jewellery featured female figures, plants, animals, fish and berries. One of his most famous designs was a glass perfume bottle with a Fire bird stopper. In 1884 his drawings and designs were exhibited at the National Exhibition of Industrial Arts in Paris.

In 1890 he opened his new business at 20 rue Therese. At this point his major patron was the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. Between the years of 1889 and 1909 he designed alot for Bernhardt which she sported on stage. Lalique worked with precious metal and glass but it was not until 1893 that he began experimenting with glass seriously and in 1913 he opened his glass works factory. By 1894 he was designing for Siegfried Bing's Maison de L'Art Nouveau, the Parisian shop that gave Art Nouveau it's name. Bing also sold a number of works by Whistler as well as Lithographs and etchings. In the late 1890s Whistler wrote Bing a letter of introduction to the collector Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston.

In 1900 Lalique exhibited his jewellery at the International Exposition of Paris and was awarded the Legion of Honor, after which he began designing perfume bottles and labels for the famous perfume and cosmetic manufacturer Francois Coty. In 1902 he exhibited at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Turin; he did so again here in 1911. The height of his success was at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris where he had his own glass Pavilion and a massive 45ft glass fountain called The Springs of France, which was seen as a monument representing the Art Deco movement.

One of Lalique's well known and aristocratic patrons was the Symbolist poet, aesthete and dandy, the Comte Robert de Montesquiou. Montesquiou, the promoter of the Art Nouveau style in Paris and other glass-makers such as Emile Galleé, was a good friend of Whistler and gave his wife Beatrix a gold and glass brooch of a butterfly by Lalique called Le Papillon-God. The brooch, which is in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow was a wedding gift and Whistler refers to it in two letters to Montesquiou. On the 13 August 1888 (#03272) Whistler writes Where we all await you- I say 'all' my dear friend because of the little butterfly of gold and sunshine that you sent flitting across the English Channel to meet us and which no longer leaves us!. In the other letter which is dated 20 January 1889, (#13625) Whistler writes We shall leave on a fine morning-the three of us-Mrs God-Whistler, who is now Mrs Whistler-God-the Butterfly-God, who never leaves us-and me-I. Again Whistler gratefully refers to the Lalique brooch which he seems to cherish.

Lalique comes across as a major figure of glamorous Paris in other letters in the Whistler correspondance by his French friends who appeal to Whistler's interest in in the city. Theodore Duret writes the following to Whistler on 14th June 1900 (#00993) Have you seen the Lalique jewellery and the gowns of the fashion houses..there is Parisianisme for you?.


The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 2003). (accessed July 2005). (accessed July 2005). (accessed July 2005). (accessed July 2005).