The Palais des Invalides (Fabert side), reserved for the exhibition of foreign nations, offers the visitor a most interesting and complete review of industrial art beyond our borders. This last name should logically have been given to them, for the name "Miscellaneous Industries" is singularly vague; while all the objects
the objects contained in these galleries, however disparate they may seem in their approach, are, more or less, part of industrial art. Indeed, we find furniture, bronze furnishings, church furniture, lighting equipment, large goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares, jewellery, clocks and watches, earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, enamel, glass and crystal, mosaics, etc, glass and crystal, mosaics, then cutlery, tableware, bimbeloterie, pipes, and finally children's toys, all industries in which the technical work is subordinated to the creative invention of the craftsman.
There is no need to repeat the description of the Palais des Invalides, as we know that the option of an exhibition on one floor has also been adopted on this point, and that the halls are surrounded by galleries which can be seen at all points of the exhibition. The exhibiting nations have made it a point of honour to surpass each other in the arrangement and furnishing of the grounds which were given over to their nationals: some of these arrangements have taken on monumental allurements; they are generally of singular richness and splendour, which set in a luxurious frame the objects exhibited.
If one enters the first Palais from the rue de Grenelle, it is Belgium that is on display; the Belgian exhibitors occupy half the hall; the other half belongs to Russia, which also has the whole of the upper galleries. The general decoration of the Belgian section is of irreproachable taste in its sobriety; this simplicity is further underlined by the pompous brilliance of the Byzantine decoration of the Russian section, which catches the eye with its uneven silhouettes, and the brilliance of a polychromy where gold is not forgotten.
Belgium does not offer us very new forms or inspirations in what it shows us; it exhibits furniture, sometimes in Louis XIV style, sometimes in Louis XV style. The Boch frères ceramics factory, whose exhibition is considerable, lines up imitations of the old Delft, in too copious a number; nevertheless, here and there, we can see a few attempts at original forms, but they are lost in the mass of reconstructions.
The ironwork of van Boekel, in Lierre, should also be mentioned; it is impossible to make a material as unwieldy as iron more supple; but to show us the skill of his technique, the blacksmith has embarked on infinite contouring; and we can cite as an example a frame of a dishevelled Louis XV, which is a marvel of execution, but whose composition leaves something to be desired.
Mr. F. Hoosemans, a jeweller in Brussels, exhibits cups and torchères, in old silver, with a pretty patina, with naked bodies of women, slender, languid, with a happy and shivering curve. Let us leave Belgium, and pass into the Russian section. First of all, after crossing the entrance arch, on our right, there is the famous map offered to France by Emperor Nicholas II. It is a mosaic of precious stones, made in the imperial factory in Ekatherinburg. It measures more than a metre on a side and is set in an architectural motif, forming a frame, which is made of slate-coloured jasper. Jasper is a variety of quartz, which presents very different appearances, depending on its origin and the geological accidents that have mixed metallic dyes with the quartz itself; these varieties have a common character, which is their hardness that makes them difficult to work. The departments on this map of France are represented by jasper of all colours: the sea is in light grey marble.
The cities on the map are 106 in number; their location is indicated by a precious stone mounted in gold. Paris is represented by a ruby; Le Havre by an emerald, Rouen by a sapphire, Lille by a phenocite, Reims by a chrysolite, Lyon by a tourmaline, Nantes by a beryl, Brodeaux by an aquamarine, Marseille by an emerald, Nice by a hyancinth, Cherbourg by an alexandrite (green in the daytime and reddish blue in the evening), Toulon by a chrysoberil; 21 cities are indicated by amethysts, 55 by tourmalines and 38 by rock crystals. The names of the cities are traced in platinum, in a broad furrow encrusted in the thickness of the jasper.
The map and its surroundings are placed in a draped velvet decoration; the crowd, kept at a distance, comments and admires. The fantastic figure of millions, at which the cost of this precious curiosity is estimated, circulates from mouth to mouth. The crowd exaggerates, of course, but it is no less certain that this card represents a nice total of roubles or francs; the effect produced is certainly less than the effort and money spent.
Russia is the land of rare stones, of which malachite and lapis lazuli are among the most sought-after because of their brilliant colouring.
Malachite has a brilliant green zoned paste with darker, even black, sinuous lines; lapis is a deep blue with tiny gold flakes. Mr Woerfel's exhibition shows us vases, trays and pedestal tables made of these precious materials, with bronze fittings. Religious goldsmithing is very flourishing in Russia; the Greek cult displays religious pomp of a very oriental richness. A peculiarity of the rite provides a pretext for the display of this art. The choir of the churches is separated from the nave, where the celebrating priest appears at certain times. These partitions, called iconostases, are decorated, as their name indicates, with icons and portraits of saints. These, framed in a display of mouldings and ornaments in which the brightest colours shine, are treated according to Byzantine traditions, and recall the paintings in the convents and churches of Mount Athos; quite often, the head and hands of the person depicted are set in reserve on a simply engraved copper plate, while the bare metal retains its colour; on the other hand, the clothes and accessories are modelled in relief and present the appearance of reality.
This voluntarily archaic art, and of a barbaric magnificence, counts many specimens in the exhibition of the Invalides, in particular an iconostasis, of professor Wasnelzoff, carried out by P. Olchinnikoff, goldsmith of the Russian court. This industrialist has also organised an important exhibition of his own works of art, which he executes in other more secular genres.
Mr. Koustnetzoff, of Moscow, is the author of a chapel, reproduced below in one of our engravings, which is built of ceramic materials, with figures on a gold background, and whose brutal, even rather garish, colouring is not lacking in character. This assembly of full tones must be muted in the half-light of a church, whereas it bursts out, loud and boisterous, in the raw light of the exhibition hall.
On the ground floor, one also encounters the pottery and flamed stoneware of Mr. Mamontoff (Moscow). Art Nouveau, or at least the trends that are catalogued under this rather vague name, are represented in this exhibition by a toilet, in glazed earthenware, equipped with its water pot, its bowl, and other accessories, whose mass, the exaggerated material heaviness make them unwieldy utensils; the whole, in its strangeness, does not lack character.
In the galleries upstairs, an important exhibition of the Central School of Drawing of Baron Stieglitz, which is under the authority of the Minister of Finance, teaches us about the methods of teaching, and the influence that this teaching has on the industrial work of fabrics, furniture, ceramics, goldsmith's and jewellery, executed by various Russian factories, according to the drawings of the pupils. The tendencies are rather academic and show a rather broad eclecticism.
The Luther House in Reval triumphs in curved and bent wood. The Artel (association) of upholsterers and cabinetmakers of St. Petersburg is represented by various works of mediocre interest which would not deserve any further mention, if it were not for a workers' production society, a rare occurrence in Russia.
If we go back down to the ground floor, we will have to visit Froloff's mosaics, the cutlery and weapons of the Tula factories; we will have a look at a showcase where children's toys are crowded, dolls dressed in Russian costumes, which have an ethnographic value, because they render, with naivety and sincerity, a side of the local existence, and different, in this sense, from our toys which exaggerate the pretty, graceful side, to the detriment of the reality.
We also find, on the ground floor, the exhibition of Mr. Robert Meltzer, the architect who built the Palais de l'Asie Russe, at the Trocadero, and who provided the drawings for the monumental gate intended for the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, an important fragment of which is exhibited at the Champs-Elysées, on the Cours-la-Reine. The drawings of Mr. R. Meltzer, and the documents that accompany them, allow us to appreciate the high artistic value of this considerable work.
When we leave the Russian exhibition and head towards the Seine, we first encounter the installation of the German Empire, which has put on a luxurious decoration of great overall effect.
The part occupied by the exhibitors from the other side of the Rhine comprises the connecting gallery between the Palais on the rue de Grenelle and the Palais médian, as well as part of the ground floor of the adjacent hall and the galleries on the upper floor. On the south side of the hall, the German commissioner's office has erected a monumental structure with a high allegorical mosaic composition. In front of this are fountains with green plant beds and equestrian statues of warriors, which precede a passageway with a basket-handle arch and a deliberate obscurity, as it highlights a background bathed in abundant light, on which a large mural painting representing a mythological allegory of fire, executed in a warm, blond tone, in porcelain tiles, and surmounted by a fountain in high relief, with figures, basins, etc., made of modelled and painted ceramics. The violent opposition between the dark passage and the nudes bathed in light, in the streaming water, is of impressive effect, if a little theatrical.
The gallery, which adorns this large fountain, is reserved for the exhibition of ceramics; we shall return to it. To the right and left, it leads to wide staircases, which are part of the decorative system and are sumptuously decorated. The galleries on the upper floor are divided into small salons which form so many individual exhibitions: these are distributed without much concern for order, and this apparent disorder is not to be regretted, for it prevents the monotony which results from the accumulation of objects of the same kind in one place.
Let us go through the upper galleries; along the one closest to the Rue Fabert, we see first of all an interior decoration; the marriage hall of the Town Hall of Carlsruhe; official furniture, with doors and panelling, of a composite Renaissance, mixed with art nouveau; then come two salons, which, near the childish public, are the most successful: the collective toy exhibitions of Nuremberg and Sonneberg (Saxe-Meiningen). It is the most amusing and picturesque accumulation of toys of all kinds, depicting humorous scenes, in a setting reminiscent of a fairy-tale apotheosis. Let us continue to quote, not in the logical order, but in that of the walk: a music room, black and gold; toys with architectural combinations out of wood; the pewter of Grefeld with the receding forms, in the same note as those which one models in Paris. Then a silver fountain, raised to the glory of German music, and seeking a buyer for the modest price of 180,000 francs. In
the bronzes that surround this fountain, a bust of a warrior should be mentioned, with his mouth turned in, looking evil, and his eyes slightly white in the shadow of his helmet, further accentuating his disturbing physiognomy; it is a remarkable work. The other bronzes, like the fountain, are not very interesting. Then come the goldsmiths, in isolated showcases, or in collective exhibitions; many reconstitutions of the past, such as vidercomes, pieces for competition prizes, of admirable execution, but old news, in short. However, some more original attempts can be seen in the showcases of Messrs Hugo Schaper and Rothmuller; also worth mentioning is Mr Werner, who is more of a jeweller.
Let us move on to furniture; here we shall find some attractive novelties, although the new art, in Germany as elsewhere, aims above all at the strange and the bizarre, and makes good use of sound logic. The ornamentation of this style, which aspires to be born and to live, has been compared to the complicated arabesques described in the air by the wick of a whip wielded by a coachman with a nimble hand; whip-like ornamentation is happily rampant in Germany: first of all the Kunstler-Kolonie in Darmstadt, with its furniture, its pottery, and its smoke-grey decoration enhanced by reddish sconces: a somewhat sad appearance. A bathroom, in ceramics and yellow marble, by Messrs Voltz and Winner of Strasbourg, is well composed, in a note devoid of banality; the furniture and marquetry of Mr Ch. Splindler are also of great originality. A fireplace, ceramics, with decorative panelling by Mr. Laenger, are recommended by a sobriety full of character. Mr. Buylen and Mr. Sohne, from Dusseldorf, exhibit an interior that we have had drawn, and in which we see a fireplace whose hood, made of iron and red copper, produces an astonishing effect. The panelling is most curious and of a pleasant effect: the frame is of light oak, and the panels of cedar, but, by a chemical process, the fibres have been engraved; the hard parts remain protruding, on a slight depression produced by the disappearance of the soft parts; the protrusions are lacquered in red, with inlays also in red; the effect is ravishing. Let us stop this enumeration, forgetting, with regret, many things worthy of interest. However, we will say a word about a very complete bedroom furniture, in the Louis XV style, because of its marvellous execution; the copper is admirably chiselled, and the inlay of rosewood on rosewood is of extraordinary skill. The royal porcelain manufactory of Berlin, and that of Meissen, which display endless collections of their products, teach us nothing new; it is the succession of the art which made the glory of Saxon porcelain and, in our country, of the manufactory of Sèvres; this art is out of fashion, perhaps unfairly.
In the German hall, the United States sections opened. The American installation, very correct and very rich, is of a calm art, with classical reminiscences. Tiffany's over-praised goldsmith's and silversmith's work, with its dry and hard execution, is displayed in several salons. Ceramists under the firms of Rookwood pottery and Grueby pottery show us products that do not exceed the good average. Some furniture makers are in an excessive modern style, where the Japanese influence is fully felt.
England has not put itself into excessive costs: neither in its installation, nor in its shipments. We can only mention carpets imitated from India and Persia; some, woven in silk, are marvellous copies, worthy of the originals.
Doulton's ceramics are sufficiently well known, and his products, whether artistic or merely industrial, are justly renowned. To speak only of artistic ceramics, the products of this factory, from their appearance, brought a new note and new processes of manufacture. A new direction in taste has occurred, but the Doulton factory has not changed, and it is still its glazed stoneware and pastillages that offer us. The modern style was born in England; one would think so judging by the name; still, we were invaded by the fabrics and furnishings invented over the Channel, before our industrialists started to play this guitar. The English modern style is represented at the Invalides, by Messrs Howard and Sons, who present us with furniture of sparse form, but reasonable enough in structure: and by Messrs Waring and Gillow, whose exhibition is important.
The various provinces that make up the Hungarian monarchy offer us a curious exhibition in which various examples of research in a new architectural and ornamental direction are mixed with archaeological and ethnographic reconstructions. To this art which emerges with claims to novelty, one can object what one is entitled to reproach to the innovative attempts in other countries: a continuous, almost sickly preoccupation with originality at all costs; the disdain for the logical rules which derive from the laws of stability and resistance of the materials used, a tiresome abuse of flexuous lines, undulations, in knots of straps. These exaggerations are particularly evident in the Austrian industrial artists, and the use of broken tones and tinted greys to accompany the forms is not without a feeling of sadness. These faults, if one can express them in this way, are particularly evident in the Austrian salon on the first floor, which has a false air of a hypogeum.
On the other hand, one must do justice to the artistic concern that presided over the general arrangement of this exhibition, to the common décor that accompanies the exhibitors' entries. No time, effort or trouble was spared, and, with some reservations, one must admire the power of imagination displayed by the architects of the Austro-Hungarian sections. These attempts and research are always better than the easy reconstitutions of admired examples; one senses an artist's work, whereas the reconstitutions are purely archaeological.
On the first floor, a series of rooms shows us various arrangements: a Czech interior, picturesque, but theatrical, neo-style tendencies in Renaissance lines; a Galicia (Austrian Poland) interior in carved and gilded oak approaches the Russian Byzantine; a Viennese interior, in dark mahogany, with grey hangings, very modern style, lacks gaiety.
The Salzburg interior is frankly Renaissance, with stamped leather hangings; in the Hungarian section, a collection of current industrial art from Styria is noteworthy. Hungary, on the other hand, offers examples of the new style. Mr. H. Kramer presents a very simple furniture, a little heavy, but full of character; that of Mr. J. Bernsteim, in mahogany, very contoured, stands out on a pretty blue-grey camaïeu tapestry, with gold alarm clocks; a little sad. The famous room of Saint Stephen, of which much had been made, would produce an excellent effect in a big drama, more or less historical. In the arts of fire, we must mention the enamels of Rapaport, the pretty earthenware of Lengyel Lormez, with metallic reflections and covered with infinite details. Let us not forget the Bohemian glassware, so well known and repeated since time immemorial.
Let us move on to the northern regions, whose industrial art, of a clearer inspiration, shows itself with a unity of expression that one does not find elsewhere. The Swedish Art and Crafts Society exhibits very simple and decorative hangings and embroideries. Norway has a more complete set, with the "Norwegian Handmade Tapestry Factory" whose artistic director is Mrs. Frida Hansen. The subjects, of a deliberate naivety, are treated in tones laid flat, without modelling; the colourings are fine and harmonious; a little too many legends of a fantasy middle age. The production is done with hand-spun wool and dyed with vegetable dyes. The "Schools and workshops for tapestries, subsidised by the State", are distinguished by a bias towards simplicity, and by the use of raw colours, without transitional halftones; this is the process of the primitive craftsmen. As for the furniture, we have the productions of Mr. Borgersen, sculptor: massive but of a beautiful allure, whose ornamentation is borrowed from the interlacing, this decorative system which was in favour from the 5th to the 8th century, which the Northmans adopted, and which was used by the illuminators of manuscripts in France during the Carolingian period. This system of interlacing was repeated in goldsmith's art, according to Mr. Tostrup, of Christiana, who also exhibits openwork enamels of incredible delicacy.
In ceramics, the Swedish factory of Mr. Gustafsberg displays a splendid exhibition of high-fired earthenware, in green or blue monochrome. The painting process, called Sgraffitto, consists of coating the piece with a plain tone, which forms the background, then scratching the design so as to expose the underlying clay, on which the tone of the decoration is placed, in impasto; the result is a slight projection that moves the whole. Some earthenware pieces are covered with a uniform metallic sheen, which has a graceful effect.
The Rörstrand factory, founded in l726, in Stockholm, exhibits next to the previous one. Its most interesting production is hard, high-fired porcelain. In form, decoration, and colour, nothing is finer, more distinguished, or more delicate than these splendid products, of admirable technique and artistic composition of the highest value. The decorative motifs, borrowed from the flora and fauna of our countries, follow softly, in a delicate relief, the harmonious curve of the objects they decorate.
We must limit ourselves to passing over other interesting events. The Royal Porcelain Factory in Copenhagen is still distinguished by the admirable execution of its high-fire porcelains, which are always imbued with a melancholy poetry. The Royal Manufactory has long since achieved perfection; it could only renew the genre in which it triumphs and which has had such a great influence on modern ceramics. Next to it stands, in Copenhagen, not a rival manufacture, but an emulator, the hard porcelain company, Bing and Groendahl, which has achieved the difficult problem of succeeding in an original production, as to execution and inspiration, next to so formidable a rivalry.
Let us stop here, and quote, for Spain, the work of iron inlaid with gold; for Italy, an industrial production, of an attractive art, but too abundant and too easy, and, however, it would be unfair not to mention the jewels of Naples, the mosaics of Rome, the filigrees of Genoa and the furniture of Venice: as for the other classes of Italian furniture and industrial art, they have found a place in the official palace of Italy. We shall not speak of Japan; its productions have been discussed in a special monograph. Finally, let us mention in a word the watch production of Switzerland, installed in an admirable setting.
©L'Exposition de Paris - 1900