Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879 – 1933) French designer and decorator

An original rendering of an Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann interiors
An original rendering of an Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann interiors

Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879 – 1933) was a French designer who was born and lived in Paris.

Biography

In 1907, he took over his father’s house painting company in Paris. He first exhibited his work in 1911, with architect Charles Plumet and couturier Jacques Doucet, Frantz Jourdain, and Tony Selmersheim.

He relocated the company from the rue Marché Saint-Honoré to the 10 rue de Maleville (paint, wallpaper, and mirror workshops) and the 27 rue de Lisbonne (the interior-design and furnishings agency). The dining room with various ‘Classical’ pieces in a circular gallery at the 1913 Salon d’Automne was the first time he showed his work alone, establishing him as the primary exponent of luxury furniture.

"LIT SOLEIL" by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (Sotheby's)
“LIT SOLEIL” by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (Sotheby’s)

Ruhlmann’s work was of the highest quality, elegance, and technical and formal sophistication. The Louis Philippe age inspired it. A practical desk and cabinet were commissioned by David David-Weill, a financier and art collector, to complement his collection of French 18th-century art.

Etablissements Ruhlmann et Laurent

To produce his work, he created the Etablissements Ruhlmann et Laurent in 1919 with painting contractor Pierre Laurent. Woods that were both expensive and warm were incorporated into precise, elegant shapes. From the time an order is received to the time it is delivered, it could take up to a year. He displayed pieces that combined classical luxury with Parisian Modernism, exemplifying the Art Déco trend, at his “hotel du Collectionneur” pavilion at the 1925 Paris exposition.

By 1928, his work had taken on a more opulent and expansive tone. Ruhlmann contributed to the avant-garde with standardised macassar-ebony modules, which he displayed at the Société des Artistes Décorateurs’ Salon in 1929 for a “viceroy of India,” in this case the Maharaja of Indore.

Varied Works

He decorated the tea room of the ocean liner fle-llde-France in 1926, the meeting room at the Chambre de Commerce in Paris in 1930, the interiors of the Palais de I’Elysée, the offices of various government ministers and administrators, the town halls of the Sth arrondissement and Puteaux, and numerous private residences.

"État" Cabinet Designed 1922; manufactured 1925–26 by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (The Met)
“État” Cabinet Designed 1922; manufactured 1925–26 by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (The Met)

Jean Renouardt commissioned the widely published 1930 Soleil bed in rosewood veneer. He started to use chrome plating and silver in his furniture towards the end of his relatively brief career of about a decade; the combination of the metal with luxurious woods can be seen in his furniture for the Maharaja of Indore’s palace.

His wallpaper was featured in Tony Selmersheim’s booth at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1911, as well as other work in the Société des Artistes Décorateurs’ annual events in 1919–26, 1928–30, and 1932–34.

Exhibitions

He exhibited alone for the first time at the Salon d’Automne in 1913 and then again in 1926.

His last major exhibition was at the Société des Artistes Décorateurs’ Salon in 1932. Ruhlmann unveiled the ‘hotel du Collectionneur’ at the 1925 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes,’ with Pierre Patout and a group of artists and ensembliers; the group included Jean Puiforcat, Edgar Brandt, Emile Decceur, Jean Dunand, Pierre Legrain, and George Bastard. In 1927, Ruhlmann exhibited in Madrid and Milan, and in 1931, he modelled one of the salons at the ‘Exposition Coloniale’ in Paris.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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