Jean Puiforcat (1897 – 1945) French Art Deco Silversmith

Jean Puiforocat
Jean Puiforocat

Most important French Art Deco Silversmith

Jean Puiforcat (pronounced pwee-for-KAH) (1897 – 1945) was a French silversmith, sculptor and designer.

He studied art under Louis-Aimé Lejeune and trained as a silversmith under his father, Louis Puiforcat.

Biography

Puiforcat fought in the First World War. He apprenticed as a silversmith and designer after the war. He lived in Paris. He used the art deco aesthetic to create his designs. His silver work was based on the geometric series and had smooth surfaces. Pieces were embellished with ivory, onyx, lapis lazuli, and rosewood. He also used gilding.

In 1921, he established his business in Paris, rejecting traditional embellishment favouring basic geometric forms. He combined his silverware with lapis lazuli, ivory, jade, rock crystal, and other semiprecious materials.

  • Cambo 1928 designed by Jean Puiforcat
  • Clock designed by Jean Puiforcat, c. 1932.

Around 1927, Puiforcat left Paris and relocated to Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Between 1928 and 1930, he worked in Havana, Cuba. Henri Charlier, a French painter and sculptor, born in the Montmartre district of Paris in 1883, was a close friend of Puiforcat. Henry and Puiforcat wrote many letters, which his daughter Alizabeth Charlier retained, along with images of her father Henri’s journey to Havana. The photos were taken inside a business where Puiforcat and a Cuban sculptor named Juan Comas worked on lions cast in bronze for a prominent Havana avenue. During Puiforcat’s stay in Havana, he became acquainted with Henri and Comas. In one of his letters from Cuba, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of credit given to the Cuban sculptor Puiforcat solely because he (Puiforcat) was famous. He appeared to be a huge fan of Juan Comas’ abilities. Henri and Puiforcat maintained their connection, meeting in Mexico in 1943.

Puiforcat co-founded the Union des Artistes Modernes.

Works

He began by designing tableware, and by 1934, he had expanded his work to include liturgical silver. He relocated to Mexico in 1941. He began exhibiting in the United States after his relocation. Even in his day, the prominent French silversmith was recognized for the exquisite, often mathematical simplicity of his geometric designs, as well as the unexpected mix of faultless metalwork with superbly polished hardstones, semiprecious stones, or glass.

Legacy

Andy Warhol amassed a collection of Puiforcat silverware on a visit to Paris in the 1970s. Sotheby auctioned off Warhol items in 1988. A tureen with an aventurine design went for $55,000, and the set went for $451,000. The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and Victoria & Albert Museum all have Puiforcat’s work in their collections. His designs and sculptures are sold through a network of boutiques named after him.

Sources

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

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