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GALLE CAMEO GLASS
Emile Gallé (1846 - 1904) was and is the dominant figure in French cameo glass and was perhaps
the most outstanding person working in glass in the Art Nouveau period. He was student
and teacher, worker and director, craftsman and artist. He demonstrated fine skills as
botanist, chemist, author, and businessman in addition to those shown in his work with
ceramics, furniture, and glass.
His father, who owned a local glass and faience factory, inspired Galle to enter the
glass industry. This sparked his interest in glass as a medium for artistic expression.
He began working for the Burgun, Schverer glass company in Meisenthal before establishing
his own company in 1873. While he found experimenting with classical and enameled designs
interesting, his aspirations were dramatically expanded when seeing the International
Exhibition in Paris in 1878. There, he was exposed in particular to the cameo glass of
Joseph Locke and John Northwood from England and Eugene Rousseau in pate de verre. Galle
was about to combine his love of nature, his chemical training, and his artistic eye to
the worlds of cameo glass, caramics, marquetry, and beyond.
Galle opened a small woodworkers shop in 1885 where he began experimenting in marquetry
designs in furniture, and he continued working at his father's factory. In 1889, Emile
Galle displayed his new glass creations at the Paris International Exhibition, designs and
colors not previously seen and causing an immediate sensation.
At the 1900 International Exhibition in Paris, Gallé had an outstanding exhibit with many
fine pieces of glass and with a working glass furnace in the centre of the display He
was highly acclaimed, and this experience was probably the high point of his career.
Galle was honoured as the head of the Ecole de Nancy (School of Nancy). Membership in
this 'school' consisted of a number of men who had achieved prominence in their
particular fields, including: Hesteaux, a potter; the Daum brothers, manufacturers of
fine glass; Victor Prouve, a painter and artist in other media; Majorelle, the outstanding
furniture maker; and others.
Galle continued to produce some glass of masterpiece quality into the final year of his life.
Galle died in 1904 and his widow continued to make Galle glass designs in the factory
until the advent of World War I in 1914 and still using his signature on the pieces but
adding a star after the 'Galle' following his death. After World War I, Paul Perdrizet,
Emile's son-in-law, began producing Galle glass once again, even adding new designs and
primarily making the multi-layer cameo glass in floral and landscape designs. Galle
cameo glass was both wheel cut and acid etched, both techniques which required fine
craftsmanship to produce and in which layers of multi-colored glass is progressively
removed to create the designs.
All Galle production ceased in 1936 although reproductions
and fakes are still made in great quantities to fool the uninformed.