Several years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Maison de Verre in Paris (1928-32) commissioned by Annie and Jean Dalsace as a meeting place for artists, musicians and intellectuals as well as a place for Dr. Dalsace to practice medicine. It is one of the few buildings Pierre Chareau (with the assistance of Danish architect Bernard Bijvoet) both designed and furnished. The architecture was breathtaking yet rugged with the use of steel and cement, transparent glass blocks, exposed industrial materials. It is an icon of modern architecture.
Last week, I had the opportunity to revisit that experience when I went to the Jewish Museum in New York to see an exhibit of Chareau’s work. As the exhibit explains, he established himself at the intersection of tradition and innovation, balancing the opulence of the French decorative arts and industrial materials of modernism.
The Great Depression put an end to the existing market for high-end furniture, and regrettably Chareau was never able to adapt to reproducible models or industrial mass production. He came to America after a stay in Morocco and become a close friend of Robert Motherwell; he built a small house on his property but his career did not flourish here.
I loved his drawings of interiors, the exquisite furniture with their wrought iron details and especially the lights constructed with iron, wood and marble. Additionally, there was a remarkable video detailing the construction and detailing of the Maison de Verre. This is an exhibit well worth seeing, open until March 26th, 2017.