Francis Jourdain (1876 – 1958) – painter, furniture maker, interior designer, ceramicist

Art Deco Armchair by Francis Jourdain, 1930s
Art Deco Armchair by Francis Jourdain, 1930s

Early Years

Francis Jourdain (1876 – 1958), the son of architect Frantz Jourdain, was born on November 2, 1876. His father created the Salon d’Automne collection. He benefited from his parents’ friendships with prominent intellectuals (Émile Zola, Alphonse Daudet) and artists of the time (the circle of Alexandre Charpentier). According to Jourdain, the culture in which Jourdain grew up was dominated by people who were strongly opinionated and willing to take sides. He saw it as corrupted by prejudices, xenophobia, and intense emotion, even though its members pretended to support liberty and compassion. His father was a model citizen in this society.

Jourdain became a painter and a pioneer of the Art Nouveau style, earning acclaim as the decorator of the Villa Majorelle in Nancy. At the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, Jourdain showed a stencilled panel with elegant, cleanly silhouetted images.


Following the teachings of Adolf Loos (1847–1933), Jourdain started designing furniture in 1911. In 1912, he founded Les Ateliers Modernes, a small furniture factory. He advertised in the radical newspaper L’Humanité, designing modular wooden furniture for working-class citizens. He was able to make small spaces look larger by using built-in furniture and storage systems. By 1919, he had opened Chez Francis Jourdain, a furniture store.

French Armchair, 1950s by Francis Jourdain
French Armchair, 1950s by Francis Jourdain

From 1913 to 1928, Jourdain exhibited regularly at the Salon d’Automne and the Societé des Artistes Décorateurs. Jourdain wrote several essays on modern art and aesthetics in which he chastised contemporary French design for its ostentatious luxury. His designs were straightforward in construction and plain in nature. In 1920, he worked with Le Corbusier to publish the government-subsidised journal L’esprit nouveau. It encouraged standardisation and industrial development as an alternative to individual design in the years following World War I (1914–18) when France’s culture and economy were shattered.

'Virgule' armchair, circa 1922 by Francis Jourdain (Christie's)
‘Virgule’ armchair, circa 1922 by Francis Jourdain (Christie’s)

Unlike other exhibits, Jourdain’s “Physical Culture Room” at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts) did not emphasise luxury living. On the walls and ceilings, he used smooth wood panelling that looked like riveted metal sheets. Between 1925 and 1930, he collaborated with Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886–1945). In 1937, he displayed an interior he designed for an Intellectual Worker at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne.


Wikipedia contributors. (2021, February 25). Francis Jourdain. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:06, March 30, 2021, from

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