Paul Follot (1877-1941)
Paul Follot, born to a wallpaper manufacturer in 1877, was a leader of the Art Deco movement. Initially trained as a sculptor, and after a stint making Art Nouveau objects, textiles, and jewelry, he headed a luxury decorating company by 1904. There, until the war, he made various designs: textiles for Cornille et Cie, silver for Christofle, china for Wedgwood. After the war, the demand for Art Deco furniture and objects had spread so that large department stores began operating workshops for their supply. Accordingly, in 1923 Follot took charge of the Pomone workshop of Le Bon Marché department store in Paris. This appointment saw a shift away from the costly elegance of his early works to a more affordable solidity. After 1928, he was director of the Paris branch of the English furniture company Waring & Gillow, to which he introduced motifs of fruit, garlands, and cornucopia.
Follot’s style evolved towards Art Deco. The foliate motifs of his earliest designs are still Gothic Revival, while his choice of rare materials, contrasting inlays, and gilding, evoked Louis XVI more than the Art Nouveau he was moving away from. It was in 1912, with his design for the Salon d’Automne that his move to a quieter classicism was complete, producing a dining room set that is now known as one of the foundational gestures of Art Deco. The openwork design on the backs of these chairs, which represent a basket full of fruit and flowers, are an example of Follot’s purism regarding Art Deco. Because, of course, the purity of Art Deco amounts to a certain floridity, in the words of Follot himself: ‘We know that the 'necessary' alone is not sufficient for man and that the superfluous is indispensable for him, otherwise let us also suppress music, flowers, perfumes…’