Art Nouveau & Art Deco, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts houses one of the most significant public collections of decorative arts in the French Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, spanning the years 1895 through 1935. Highlights include lamps by Louis Comfort Tiffany, American and British Arts and Crafts objects by major architects and designers, and a distinguished group of Art Deco objects made in Paris.

Among the highlights of the VMFA collection of Decorative Arts 1890 to the Present are these examples in the Sydney and Frances Lewis Decorative Arts Galleries. These objects are some of the finest and rarest examples of their type in the United States. The museum specializes in objects in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles by leading designers and artists of the time, representing a wide range of materials and forms.

Armchair (for Hous’hill, Catherine Cranston’s residence, Glasgow, Scotland)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish, 1868 – 1928 (Designer)
Alex Martin, Scottish, active 1898 – 1909 (Maker)
McCulloch and Company, Scottish, active 1892 – 1925, (glass) (Maker)
Between 1903 and 1919, Charles Rennie Mackintosh created the interior decoration and furnishings for Hous’hill, the residence of Catherine Cranston, owner of a series of tearooms in Glasgow. One of the distinctive features of Miss Cranston’s house was the Drawing Room, also known as the Music Room (see image nearby). This armchair was made for the Drawing Room, and its vertical slats are echoed in a curved screen that was a key architectural feature in the white-painted room. The dark-stained wood and oval insets of mauve-colored glass were in sharp contrast to the white walls of the Drawing Room. The importance of this sculptural piece of furniture lies in its aesthetics rather than its function or comfort. Other pieces of furniture designed by Mackintosh for the Drawing Room at Hous’hill can be seen in this gallery, and include a tea table and a wrought iron firefront.

Sideboard (for Robert R. Blacker Residence, Pasadena, California)
Charles Sumner Greene, American, 1868 – 1957 (Artist)
Henry Mather Greene, American, 1870 – 1954 (Artist)
From 1907 to 1909 architects Charles and Henry Greene created bungalows for wealthy clients on the West Coast. The first house they finished during this period in Pasadena, California, was for Robert R. Blacker, a retired lumberman. The Blacker house was the largest and most splendid commission the Greenes designed; it reflected their interest in Japanese art, seen in the overhanging timber construction, lanterns, and refined furniture. This sideboard, created for the dining room, is one of their design masterpieces because of its scale; finely carved mahogany; and the ebony, copper, pewter, and mother-of-pearl details. Flanking the sideboard are a pair of chairs and wall lights also made for the Blacker dining room.

Armchair (for Hill House, Helensburgh, Scotland)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish, 1868 – 1928 (Designer)
John Craig, Scottish, 1842 – 1920 (Maker)
This armchair is one of a set of three originally designed for the entrance hall (which also served as a sitting room) for Hill House, a Scottish house designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The other two armchairs are now in Hill House’s permanent collection. Mackintosh used his characteristic horizontal and vertical planes in the design of this chair. Unlike his other furniture from this period, this chair, the two others, and a relate table for the room were left unstained. The warm tones of the unstained oak contrast with the darker hues of the paneling in the room (see nearby image).

Tray from Tea Service
Josef Hoffmann, Austrian, 1870 – 1956 (Designer)
Wiener Werkstätte, Austrian (Vienna), 1903 – 1932 (Manufacturer)
This five-piece tea service, one of only three now in existence, shows Josef Hoffmann’s mature style when compared to his earlier works. An example of this tea service was illustrated in the Wiener Werkstätte brochure and priced at $650, a huge amount at the time. An identical tea service, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was sold by the American branch of the Wiener Werkstätte store in New York City to the distinguished Hollywood film writer Frances Marion. Other examples of Hoffmann’s metalwork can be found in this gallery.

Corner Cabinet Meuble d’Angle Etat (no. 1521AR-2233NR)
Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, French, 1879 – 1933 (Designer)
Gilbert Pelletier (Cabinetmaker)
Adolphe Chanaux, French, 1887 – 1965 (Cabinetmaker)
Ruhlmann et Laurent, French, 1919 – 1933 (Manufacturer)
This corner cupboard, made by the furniture maker Chaneux and Pelletier, is among Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s most refined pieces of furniture. The ivory design on the door represents a vase, reminiscent of 18th-century patterns often featured in furniture designed by Ruhlmann. Ivory is also used elsewhere to ornament the cabinet; for example, the door is framed with a pattern of small ivory dots. Ruhlmann’s furniture is noted for its superior cabinetmaking and finish as well as sophisticated detailing. He regularly catered to wealthy patrons who wished to own luxurious objects.

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Punch Bowl with Three Ladles
Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, American, New York, 1892 – 1900 (Artist)
This punch bowl was owned by Henry O. Havemeyer of New York City, one of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s most distinguished patrons, and it is among the most important works created by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company. Formed of Tiffany’s hand-blown Favrile glass (after the Latin word fabrilis, meaning handmade), the punch bowl has an iridescent surface reminiscent of ancient Roman glass. The gilded silver mounts are classic Art Nouveau-style C- and S-shaped scrolls. The bowl is visible in a photograph (see gallery text panel) of the Tiffany Favrile Glass display at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900 where Louis Comfort Tiffany won a grand prize and received the French Legion of Honor.

Cabinet (for the artist’s office at the Castel Béranger, Paris)
Hector Guimard, French, 1867 – 1942 (Artist)
Ateliers d’Art et de Fabrication (Maker)
This monumental cabinet, with its twisting lines and hollowed spaces, was inspired by nature and created for Hector Guimard’s office in the Castel Béranger, an apartment building that he designed and was built in Paris between 1894 and 1898. Judging from the original drawings of the cabinet now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Guimard initially planned an even more elaborate piece of furniture.

Sometime after 1909 when Guimard transferred his office and its furnishings from the Castel Béranger to his newly-constructed house on the Avenue Mozart, this cabinet was remodeled and most likely used there. It is important to remember that the architect conceived this cabinet as part of the overall design of an interior and not as a separate piece of furniture.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, United States
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, or VMFA, is an art museum in Richmond, Virginia, in the United States, which opened in 1936.

The museum is owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia, while private donations, endowments, and funds are used for the support of specific programs and all acquisition of artwork, as well as additional general support. Admission itself is free (except for special exhibits). It is one of the first museums in the American South to be operated by state funds. It is also one of the largest art museums in North America. VMFA ranks as one of the top ten comprehensive art museums in the United States.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, together with the adjacent Virginia Historical Society, anchors the eponymous “Museum District” of Richmond (alternatively known as “West of the Boulevard”).