A LESSER LUMINARY OF THE FRENCH ART GLASS FIRMAMENT (AND BADLY DRAWN TREES)
The manufacturer of today’s item – an Art Deco vase bearing an enamelled image over frosted lead glass – was a gentleman by the name of Jean Gauthier who, unsurprisingly, operated in central Paris in the shadow of Sacré-Cœur and at an alternative location at Ézanville on the northern fringes of the city. Working during the inter-war years of the 20th century, Gauthier was primarily an ‘architectural’ glass maker, probably best known for his table lamps, ceiling lights, chandeliers, up-lights and lustres.
His first products utilised cameo glass and later, at the Ézanville works, he worked mainly with moulded, pressed glass, and making flat rolled, patterned and opaqued panels for use in windows (notably lead-lights) and interior design installations – screens around booths in bars, restaurants and less salubrious salons, for instance, or internal sash windows in communicating walls which required temporary privacy in one direction or the other (or, indeed, both). The rolled panels – made by passing molten glass between engraved, metal ‘printing rollers’ – featured some extraordinarily intricate designs of interlocking geometric shapes bordering on fractal complexity and were virtually works of art in their own right.
In the 1930’s Gauthier was working more with opalescent glass, ideally suited for his lamps and lights, not to mention the ‘privacy screens’ on the more architectural side of things. Prior to this, however, he had explored a more artistic means of expression, clearly having noted the success of Daum, Delatte, Legras et al, and there are a limited number of Gauthier vases, all decorated with similar naturalistic motifs. The cameo glass examples nearly all feature bold floral and leaf designs, but there are also pieces made with frosted glass which bear more complex, enamelled polychrome images of wider landscapes featuring trees, some with wildlife, and several capturing reflected images on lakes or other bodies of water.
Unfortunately, for all the capabilities of the manufactory, the actual quality of the enamelled images aren’t great, and – for a company that worked with lighting – the opacity and translucence of the base glass is not fully exploited. I’m left to imagine what – for instance – Legras might have done with similar images given the way in which this piece so marvellously recreates the luminescence of snow-laden clouds. Had more time been devoted to this particular creative opportunity, then perhaps experience would have seen some more impressive results being produced…
One last item of interest with regard – particularly – to Gauthier’s original Parisian premises at 12-14 Rue Jean Robert (now a n adult education centre) is that the signage over the entrance stated “ETABLISSEMENTS JEAN GAUTHIER – DECORATIONS ARTISTIQUE – SUR VERRE – SUR PORCELAINE”. We are obviously familiar with the glass produced at this ‘etablissement’ – but has anyone out there ever seen any Gauthier porcelain? Presumably given the residential/workshop nature of the property, rather than there being much scope for kilns and fictile productivity, this would have been along the lines of ‘imported’ blanks which were then decorated – information or examples, anyone?