Muller Frères

Biography

The Muller brothers of Lunéville, renowned French glassmakers of the Art Nouveau, shaped a period of growth and innovation in the decorative arts in France towards the end of the nineteenth century. A large family consisting of nine brothers and one sister, the Muller household was one of modest means: their father was an inn-keeper at their birthplace of Alsace. Following the German annexation of 1870, the family fled to Nancy, a city of growing prosperity due to its influx of refugees who offered a flow of labour, capital, and ingenuity. The founding of the Daum Crystal Factory in 1878 played a significant role in the catalysis of this mass migration: having trained as glass cutters or engravers at the Cristallerie de Saint-Louis, the eldest Muller brothers were particularly attracted to this now affluent region. Henri, the eldest, Désiré, and their sister Camille, commenced work under another burgeoning glassmaker, Émile Gallé, upon their arrival in Nancy. Gallé played a significant role in the Modernist art scene at the time: an artist and designer, he was one of the harbingers of the Art Nouveau in France. In 1895, Henri and Désiré leave Gallé to establish their own workshop in Lunéville, for which Gallé is eternally begrudging. He wrote at the time, "the wretch who leads the gang must have taken a mass of notes from my books and even my formulas, which were under lock and key". Meanwhile, the Lunéville workshop grew as the other Muller siblings joined, along with their father. The brothers produce a multitude of designs and ornaments for the home, including vases, cups, ewers and sculptures. Their creations of the period were inspired by naturalism; designs might feature botanical or floral motifs, depictions of insects such as butterflies, and other creatures such as bats and birds. The 'Muller Frères', as they were known, became experts in their field, employing traditional techniques such as cameo engraving, inlaid glass, and enamelling. They were specialists in the superimposition of glass layers, used to create their signature mottled effect, and by 1900, no design consisted of less than seven layers of glass. Works were then cut with a wheel and engraved with acid, a craft that relied heavily on skill and artistry of the maker. In 1911 they received a silver medal at the international exhibition of Turin in 1911 and in 1914 they received a gold at the exhibition of Lyon. However, production was paused upon the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Production later ceased in 1933, and the factory closed three years later, a result of the Great Depression.

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