Stuff of interest at the Met #2: French Art Deco: Emile Jacques Ruhlmann

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by naomi weiss posted 02-08-2010 11:32 AM 2122 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Nakashima Furniture in The Japanese Art Reading Room Part 2 of Stuff of interest at the Met series Part 3: Rietveld's ZigZag Stoel (Chair) »

The combination of simple forms and complex marquetry makes Ruhlmann furniture pretty interesting. Though his furniture has a clean sleek look, he rarely used straight lines, favouring instead the more challenging execution of curves. For a better bio on Ruhlmann, see the site linked below. I don’t think i had heard of him before…His stuff at the Met blew me away, and since i didn’t have a camera, i took a little video on my Nano:

Here is infomation provided by one of the sites (art antiques—Carol Fisher)

Ruhlmann’s Furniture
All Ruhlmann’s furniture was handmade by specialist craftsmen. Right up until 1923 Ruhlmann was using outside cabinetmakers for his furniture. In that year he started his own cabinetmaking shop employing people highly skilled in carpentry, upholstery, mirror grinding, veneering and inlaying.

Even whilst the furniture was being made by other cabinetmaking businesses, his quality control was superb as the techniques used produced pieces so flawless that Ruhlmann’s furniture has been favourably compared to the finest 18th century pieces. Ruhlmann refused to admit that something could not be done. He wanted his designs executed, no matter how difficult. His craftsmen were expected to keep trying until they achieved his vision. For all its elegance, the furniture was designed to be used and to be comfortable. Form and design served to enhance the use of the furniture.

The company never catered for the mass market. One of his pavilions at the 1925 exhibition might have been called ‘Pavilion for a Collector’ but rich collectors were the ones that he had in mind. He believed that fashion started amongst the rich elite because they were the ones who could afford the costs of experimentation. He further believed that the whole purpose of fashion was for the display of wealth. In fact Ruhlmann claimed that, in spite of the high prices he charged, he lost money on each piece of furniture because of the expensive materials used and the amount of time and effort that went into each piece. He could only continue to make his superb pieces because he had another business that made a profit.

In 1933 Ruhlmann discovered that he was terminally ill. To protect the reputation he had built for his furniture he said in his will that the company was to finish any outstanding orders and then the company was to be dissolved.

Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann’s reputation as the supreme furniture designer of the 20th century has survived intact. His furniture may be seen in the permanent collections of, amongst others, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s forthcoming exhibition (this article was written in 2003…)

And here is a phenomenal site devoted to Ruhlmann’s art.

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

5 comments so far

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1099 posts in 3805 days

#1 posted 02-08-2010 04:13 PM

Thanks for this post. I was unaware of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann’s work. Shame on me! Fantsti. Thanks. Max

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1285 posts in 3735 days

#2 posted 02-08-2010 05:33 PM

You are very fortunate to be able to actually see his work in person. He has been a great inspiration for some of my work.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#3 posted 02-08-2010 05:40 PM

Thanks I enjoyed seeing some of Ruhlmann’s work.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3346 days

#4 posted 02-08-2010 06:57 PM

Naomi, very interesting, I will have to make some time to look at the link…

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View naomi weiss's profile

naomi weiss

207 posts in 3391 days

#5 posted 02-08-2010 07:03 PM

Charles-neither was i! i sense it’s going to open a whole new world for us newcomers to his work!
John-that’s pretty cool that you have been influenced by Ruhlmann—i need to check out your projects!
Jim—glad you like the post
jlsmith—i also haven’t fully explored it but it’s on my ‘to do’ list! it looks pretty extensive and definitely promising!

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics