Société des Artistes Décorateurs (Society of Decorative Artists) – France

Société des Artistes Décorateurs

The creation in 1901 of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs (SAD) reflected the increasing significance in France of this new profession of Decorative Arts. This resulted from a series of government-funded projects carried out in the fine and applied arts schools of France to improve the status of applied arts and training. In other countrecies, these sought to address major developments that increasingly recognised the economic significance of design education.

In addition to the expansion of the existing French schools of fine and applied arts, new institutions were established in the final decades of the 19th century. This included the Limoges and Nice National Schools of Decorative Arts (both opened in 1881), the Bourges National School of Applied Arts (also opened in the same year), and the École des Arts Appliqués in Saint-Étienne (started in 1889). The École Boullée (opened in 1886), and the École Estienne (opened in 1889) were among the new generation of Parisian institutions.

SAD was committed to promoting French craftsmanship of high quality, cabinet making and satisfying the taste of a wealthy urban elite. The Société founded its 1904 exhibitions in addition to displaying the decorative arts in other contexts. The Société encountered some difficulties with declining membership in the years leading up to 1910 and, in 1910 itself, a noticeable challenge from the exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in Paris of German applied arts. The modernisation of styles, bold colours and visual harmony has had a significant effect on critics and French decorative artists.

Additional anxiety for the French was the economic significance of Germany’s increased market share in the region, reinforcing campaigns in the years leading up to the First World War to mount an international exhibition where French craftsmanship and quality traditions in luxury goods would be re-established. The proposed Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels ended up taking place in 1925, after several delays. Despite misgivings among SAD members about the words “modern” and “industrial” in the 1925 Paris Exposition title, its exhibition was impressive. While SAD played a less important role than expected, its display was subsidised by the state. It took the shape of a French Embassy with an impressive show of interiors designed by Maurice Dufrène, Paul Follot, Pierre Chareau, René Herbst, and André Groult’s all artists-decorateurs.

The Société’s long-standing dedication to the luxury end of the market culminated in significant conflicts between its more conservative members and those. The latter was more sympathetic to modern design values, despite considerable discussion about the relationship between art and industry. This led to the formation of the politically opposed Union des Artistes Modernes in 1929, an organisation devoted to design production and consumption that strongly embraced new materials, production technology, and the realities of modern life. Recognising the importance of industrial architecture, SAD invited the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB) to exhibit in Paris in 1930. Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Herbert Bayer, and László Moholy‐Nagy were among the DWB designers on show. While its role never recovered the vitality and sense of mission of its earlier years after the Second World War.


Société des Artistes Décorateurs. Oxford Reference. Retrieved 8 Nov. 2020, from

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