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Gallé, Emile, 1846-1904



  • Existence: 1846 (date of birth) - 1904 (date of death) - 1904


Emile Gallé (1846-1904) was a celebrated French designer and one of the leaders of the Art Nouveau movement. Born in 1846, in the Eastern French town of Nancy, Gallé was the son of a successful faience and furniture manufacturer. He attended the Lycee Impérial in Nancy and in 1862, at the age of sixteen, he began to travel across Europe studying mineralogy, art history and botany. After returning home in 1864, Gallé spent three years studying glassmaking at one of his father’s workshops in Meisenthal. He also continued to travel in order to develop his knowledge of glass; by visiting museums he was introduced to techniques such as enameling and cameo glass. By 1874 his father retired and Gallé took charge of the family business. A year later he married Henriette Grimm.

Gallé believed that glass vessels should be more than just functional containers. He therefore combined his love of nature and knowledge of glass techniques to produce unique works of art. Using deeply colored and heavy opaque glass, layered in several thicknesses, he formed vessels and decorated them with enameled flowers and insects. He also experimented with different techniques such as wheel cutting, acid etching, casing and using metallic foils and air bubbles in his designs. In 1885 he opened a carpentry shop and began producing furniture. Gallé showed both his furniture and glass objects at the 1889 Paris International Exhibition, where he was awarded a Grand Prix and a Gold Medal.

In 1894 Gallé established a new workshop in Nancy known as “Cristallerie d’Emile Gallé.” He employed a number of master craftsmen and supervised all aspects of production. This new workshop enabled Gallé to mass produce pieces of art glass, which was an incredible innovation in the field of glassmaking. At the 1900 International Exhibition in Paris, Gallé displayed not only objects adorned in the naturalistic designs for which he had become famous, but also a working glass-maker’s kiln with a complete set of tools. In 1901 he founded the École de Nancy to promote the Art Nouveau style and foster a continuing tradition of creative craftsmanship. He remained president of the school until his death from leukemia in 1904. Gallé’s widow operated the workshop after his death. All of the glass manufactured continued to bear Gallé’s signature, though a star was engraved alongside the name to indicate that it was produced after his death. Production ceased in 1936.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Emile Gallé Collection

Identifier: MS-0050
Scope and Contents

This collection is of mixed provenance and contains an assemblage of correspondence, design drawings, and ephemera created by Emile Gallé, French designer and leader of the Art Nouveau movement, and his workshop. It is divided into three series:

(1) Correspondence and Sketches, 1880-1895

(2) Writings and Images, 1884-1969

(3) Design Drawings, 1880-1904

Dates: 1880-1969; Majority of material found within 1880-1904