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Decorative arts exhibition applied to industry - Expo Liege 1905

Missing picture

If the Salon de France, with its warm and colourful atmosphere, seemed made for the full light of summer, favourable for the bursting of the gleaming alternations of its tapestries and the gaiety of its light decoration, the Salon des Arts décoratifs appliqués à l'industrie, on the other hand, evoked rather the winter and the special charm of dark, partially lit rooms, with dreamy penumbras, with corners of full and discreet intimacy.

This living room, a specimen and type of modern art, had a surface area of 100 square metres. Located in the same bay as the Salon de France, it followed it almost immediately. Two doors placed in the axis of the gallery gave access to it. Six metres high and vaulted, it was illuminated by electric lamps which gave it a subdued light. It was a charm and a rest for the eyes to linger there. The centre of the room, very bright, seemed to invite the examination of the display cases which, in the middle of this full light, contrasting with the shadows of the corners, took on the appearance of precious things on which the visitor's attention should be focused. All around shone faintly, with the softness of a lost corner of a chapel, the embossed copper, the gold friezes, the flamed sandstone.

A large part of the furnishings in this salon had been designed by Bellery-Desfontaines. Near the entrance, on the right and left, a sandstone fountain by Bigot and a fireplace also in sandstone by Gentil and Bourdet, rested on flamed sandstone fireplaces; the latter was licked by curious reflections of fire.

The chimneypiece, of a stalactite whiteness wet with water, was surmounted by a high relief in embossed copper, executed by Schenk; the reliefs under the attenuated light were drawn here and there by reflections, pricked like lost sparks. The whole of the wainscoting up to a height of 1^SO had been executed by the "French Lincrusta Walton". The design consisted of a hedge of rosehips, accompanied by birds, on a golden background which the light made protrude, while the patterns seemed to be carved into it. Above this panelling, on a yellow, white and gold monochrome background, eight panels by Bellery-Desfontaines, symbolising the wood, iron, glass, paper, fabric, ceramic, precious metal and sewing industries, stood out in brown, with the appearance of darkened stained glass.

Between these panels, eight copper plates embossed by Schenk represented the tools of these industries.

Above this frieze to the vault, the walls were hung with a three-tone brocaded silk fabric by Cornille of Paris, while on the floor were two carpets by Antoine Jorrand of Aubusson.

On the ceiling hung a wrought-iron chandelier by Robert, discreetly decorative; like pieces of ice that the pale winter sun filled with reflections, eight large cabochons from the Jeumont glassworks surrounded it. Inside the salon, under the full and soft light of the electric lamps, were elegant display cases. Behind their windows, various objects, harmoniously grouped, attracted the eyes.

Two of them contained items sent by the Fabrique Nationale de Sèvres. They consisted of fine porcelain reproductions of famous works, beautiful bowls and vases decorated by well-known artists, and superb crystallization vases.

Other showcases contained the superbly edited and illuminated books of the Imprimerie Nationale (this showcase was made of wrought iron by Pigeât), the medals of the Mint signed by Chaplaîn, Vernon, Bottée, etc., and by that delightful and great artist Roty, objects from the Bronzes d'art, jewellery, boxes and artistic bindings by Saint-André de Lignereux as well as the superb stoneware of Mr. Georges Hoentschel. The most beautiful and boldest innovations in the field of industrial art by these modern artists were presented in these precious collections.

Such was the Salon des Arts décoratifs appliqués à l'industrie, whose art nouveau decoration avoided the pitfall of many such salons: extravagance and the preoccupation with forced and deliberate originality, to which art remains alien.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905