Louis Majorelle’s Contributions to Art Nouveau


Art Nouveau or Jugendstil is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and the decorative arts, that was most celebrated and and popular during the period between 1890 and 1910. It was a reaction to the academic arts of the 19th century and was inspired by natural forms and structures, not simply in flowers and plants, but in curved lines. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment. Although, Art Nouveau was replaced by 20th century Modernist styles, it is now considered an important transition between more eclectic historic revival styles of the 19th century and Modernism.

Louis-Jean-Sylvestre Majorelle, simply known as Louis Majorelle (1859-1926) was a French decorator and furniture designer/manufacturer who worked in the French tradition of cabinetry and woodwork. Louis Majorelle’s furniture vaguely called to mind the splendors of furniture from the 1700’s. Majorelle often embellished his pieces with sculpted gilt mounts, while the serpentine natural forms which so deeply inspired him suggested the C-scroll motifs from the era of Louis XV. In an age when France was still crushed by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and also when luxury production in other European countries was threatening the cultural mastery the French naturally saw as their birthright, it was Majorelle’s ability to suggest the nation’s glory days that was the partial key to his success. Utilizing a new array of natural forms and the lavish lines of Art Nouveau, Majorelle’s furniture merged the old with the new in a titillating way. The combination of exceptional craftsmanship with the newly formed aesthetic was celebrated at the 1900 Exhibition by the public and critics both, who saw in Majorelle a cherished link between the grandeur of the Eighteenth Century and the promise of the modern age.

“Art Nouveau was coil-envy.”
-Author: China Miéville



xAttribution to Macklowe Gallery, Walters Art Museum, 1st Dibs, Newel New York, Gauchet & Gauchet