The Exhibition of Decorative Arts, which has been so successful since its opening, is not only intended, as one might think, to delight the public or to serve the interests of artists; it has a higher purpose: the progress of art, and its propagation, art intimately linked to the evolution of morals and whose diffusion is one of the most interesting phenomena of modern life.
In this respect, the sudden change that has taken place in recent years has found in Le Bon Marché a powerful auxiliary; this House, which is not only the most modern of the large novelty shops, but also the most important for everything that concerns furnishings, fittings, carpets and interior decoration of the home, has not hesitated, when the time came, to take the lead in the contemporary artistic movement, at least in what it possesses of the most interesting and reasonable.
To achieve this goal, the management of this department stores' called upon the assistance of Paul Follot, one of the masters of modern decorative work, whose renovating imagination, guided by technical knowledge and tempered by a concern for practicality, has adapted his beautiful creations to the needs of present-day life. Paul Follot, in the very workshops of Le Bon Marché located on the fourth floor, in the full light falling from the sky, works and directs his collaborators with an ardour always stimulated by the successes which, each day, crown his judicious efforts.
The mission that Paul Follot, director of "Pomone", the modern art studio of the Bon Marché, has been entrusted with is a noble one, since it is about making life more pleasant and more beautiful. It is, in fact, at home, in his "home", that man settles his family duties, and his thoughts when he lives alone. How can one escape the pulls of a dissipated existence when one dislikes one's home, and how can one not dislike it when one neglects to bring into it that which makes for grace, feeling and comfort!
But everything is complicated today. Very often, if not most often, the smallness of the premises forces their inhabitants to ingenious combinations in order to obtain the most comfort possible in a minimum of space.
This is how some bedrooms can be both living room and study; the bed, during the day, becomes a sofa, the bookcase that holds the books also serves as a wardrobe, etc. The fireplace, unfortunately destined to disappear like the others, is a good example. The fireplace, unfortunately destined to disappear as an illuminating rent, will now only house radiators fitted with a perfected ventilation system. The employment of servants, one of whose main tasks in the past consisted in lining the fireplace in the room in which one was sitting with logs or coal, has become such an expensive luxury that the joy of the sight of pretty flames has had to be sacrificed.
In short, faced with the difficulties and demands of modern life, as well as the desire to "do something new", the search for new and appropriate furnishing formulas began.
But while the industry, a little routine, showed itself timid, hesitated to adapt its manufacture to the original conceptions of the artists, distrusted, to say the least, the new art, not believing that these demonstrations could be carried out with a view to a practical destination, the trade went ahead and it was it which, in the end, forced the hand of the industry to follow its impulse.
Let us say in passing that the clientele did not fail to make very often very accurate observations about a style which was at first a little confusing and whose novelty upset long-standing habits. These observations were passed on by the department heads, and the Bon Marché took advantage of the suggestions given insofar as they were feasible.
But a single visit to the "Pomona" pavilion, which the Bon Marché had built in the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs by the talented architect Boileau, will convince, better than the most ingenious comments, the incredulous and the hesitant that modern art is today ready to serve and adorn our existence. Let us enter.
THE ENSEMBLES OF THE POMONE PAVILION
In the centre of the vestibule is a quadrangular marble basin, the corners of which are decorated with spherical clumps of boxwood and primroses; in the middle, a jet of water flows and sings in a golden mosaic basin. Around it, four luminous display cabinets, where precious trinkets glitter softly. One could not dream of anything more welcoming than this entrance.
On the left, in the vestibule itself, ceramics where the nuances of taste, the variations of fantasy are found together; everything is there: order, proportion, harmony. Each vase has a clear meaning, a dominant dimension. It is impossible, in fact, to put feeling into a work of art without showing a kind of partiality for this form or that colour.
Does not the unity of the composition define the unity of the impression it produces?
The study, sober and sumptuous at the same time, has a magnificent character of intimacy; the furniture clearly shows both its purpose and the particular turn of thought of a modern man who, through his occupations, sometimes has the leisure to dream. The carpet, made of soap, is all in half-tone and very original.
Paul Foliot, director of Pomone, has achieved a rare perfection.
The important thing was to leave the furniture the joy of its warm tone. To do this, it was necessary to avoid dizzying them with too much noise. A black and gold cushion adds a lovely, lively note to this discreet concert.
The chairs are simple and beautiful, and the desk with its cut-off sides is both elegant and comfortable, in a word, very modern. The tapestries and the ceiling harmonise delightfully. The bas-reliefs, the clock, the sculptures, everything contributes to the beauty of the whole. The furniture is in curly walnut and waxed. The lamps spread a soft, veiled light that blurs the contours and softens the shadows.
We are now in an octagonal boudoir topped by a golden dome reminiscent of Cambodian buildings. The lacquered wooden piano has a strange and graceful architecture.
The colour of this room - a boudoir, presumably reserved for a beauty - makes a sharp impression that is not without charm.
LUXURY AND ELEGANCE
The salon is elegantly superior, without being too solemn (we no longer live under Louis XIV7 ), and is both serious and charming. The furniture is made of carved macassar ebony and ivory. The carved and gilded wooden seats are covered with warm brown velvet. The brown and white piano is a marvel. A statuary group by R. Josset and a painting by H. Robert adorn this welcoming room, which is upholstered in purple and gold damask.
The artificial light falls very softly from the ceiling, from a large chandelier made of pressed glass; everything is quiet, charming and, why not say it, honesty in this lounge which smiles at visitors with the gentleness of a friend. In truth, one longs to sit in one of these good and beautiful armchairs and hear some good music.
Next to the salon is the smoking room, made of waxed oak, with a sympathetic personality: a low armchair, a sumptuous couch on which it would be good to taste the aroma of a cigar; the bookcase is cut away, and, on a small table, a globe like a large moon drowned in fog illuminates this discreet and mysterious refuge intended for a man of the world whom we suppose to be wealthy enough to afford the luxury of being lazy with delight.
The dining room, with its carved rosewood furniture and its soap carpet, is a masterpiece of distinction. You don't sit on light chairs, but in solid and elegant armchairs. You have to be comfortable to enjoy the pleasures of a feast; the ancients used to eat lying down.
A large bay window, framed with flowers, a large sculpted dresser, engraved marble walls, a silver ceiling. The visitor passes and stops in front of this noble table where it would be so good to sit at mealtime.
One reaches the first floor by means of a staircase decorated with a wrought iron banister. There, one admires a woman's room, of a high style: the wardrobe is inlaid with ivory, the light spreads over the headboard of the very low bed; the blue greys of the bedspread, the subdued shades of the fabrics covering the armchairs, emphasize the warm colour of the amber furniture; on the bedspread, whose geometrical design is made of various furs, two mules await the bare and delicate feet that are going to put them on...
The man's room, sober, curious, practical and which an artist would surely like to inhabit, the small room which serves as a frame for the mannequins who are dressed in the pretty dresses created by the new couture workshops of Le Bon Marché, are of the happiest effect obtained by the use of lines which are sometimes rigid and sometimes of a slightly languid curvature.
But words and photographs themselves are powerless to convey the harmony that emerges from this exhibition.
It truly synthesises modern decorative art at its most accomplished and most effectively new.
Let us leave it to the lingering lovers of the good old days. If they don't like it, since Louis-Philippe an obvious progress has been made.
Thanks to the happy initiative of the management of the "Bon Marché", to the talent of the director and the collaborators of "Pomone", we have before our eyes remarkable, practical and varied productions of the new school; it appears here in its best spirit, we mean stripped of the exaggerations, of the eccentricities of those who, dreaming of the extraordinary at any price, believed that ugliness could be synonymous with character.
The name and brand of "Pomone" will be known throughout the world tomorrow, because the Bon Marché pavilion at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs will have shown visitors from the four corners of the Universe what the art of furnishing can and must be, brought back to its true purpose; audacious without doubt and nevertheless respectful of the wisest traditions, its powerful originality is always in good taste, full of good sense: it is a very French art.
©L'Illustration - 1925