Serge Mouille (1922- 1988) French Lighting Designer

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Serge Mouille (1922- 1988) was a French Lighting Designer; he was born and active in Paris. Serge Mouille began studying silversmithing with Gabriel Lacroix in 1937. After four years of silversmithing school, he worked for various companies, opened his metal workshop, and assisted Gabriel Lacroix. It was in 1952 that he created the Zebra, a revolutionary stainless steel automobile body. This car was more of a challenge than anything else and never was intended for production.

Serge Mouille Lamp
Serge Mouille Lamp

Biography

In the same year, he became director of the School of Applied Arts in Paris. Jacques Adnet, known for his stylish Hermes designs, soon commissioned him to research and develop lighting designs in response to the complicated Italian designs that flooded the 1950s market. 1953 saw the birth of his most iconic design, the three-arm standing lamp with aluminium “nipple” shades. The “nipple” hid the wiring deep inside the lamp’s head, allowing the bulb to reflect off the entire interior of the sensuously shaped head. This idea was widely copied in late 1950s mass-market designs. Mouille made each lamp by hand, never using machines to increase production. The intrinsic appeal of Mouille lamps was that he trained in silversmithing and considered them art.

From 1956, Mouille lamps were shown in the Steph Simon Gallery in Paris, alongside works by Charlotte Perriand, Isamu Noguchi, and Jean Prouvé. Collaboration with Steph Simon forced him to solve lighting issues, leading to new models favouring modernist architects and collectors worldwide. Lighting design for a cruise ship lounge, salon lighting for Christian Dior in Paris, Es.to HQ in La D6fense (near Paris), the embassy hall of the Republic of Central Africa, and the Bizerte Cathedral in Tunisia. Because Mouille’s designs captivated him, the actor Henry Fonda camped out on the steps of his workshop until Mouille took him in for a meeting.

Mouille created a new line of lamps called “colonnes” (columns) in 1962 and produced them for two years. An attempt to sell them through Knoll International failed due to Florence Knoll’s opposition. However, Mouille lighting orders increased. Mouille, who never stopped teaching and only made lighting by hand, couldn’t keep up. Either he had to stop teaching or industrialise his lamp production. Mouille stopped designing in 1964 and became an educator at the School of Applied Arts. It was 1988.

No one knows Serge Mouille’s entire production, but it is limited, and unique models sell for six figures. Sadly, there are now more intentionally aged copies than originals.

Recognition

Serge Mouille was awarded the Charles Plumet Prize (1955), the honorary diploma of the Brussels International Exhibition (1958), a gold medal from the Encouragement of National Industry (1962), and the Paris Special Medal for the Handmade Art Profession (1963). During his intensive research at the School of Applied Art, he created monumental sculptures, miniature jewellery, and rare furniture. He was constantly asked to exhibit his work, especially after he stopped producing. His widow keeps his spirit alive in France and worldwide with a new edition created with her husband’s same tools.

Source

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

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