Galle, Emile – French Glassmaker

Emile Galle (1846-1904)

Frenchman Emile Galle was one of the Continent’s most innovative leaders of the Art Nouveau Movement. His glass studio, established in 1874 at Nancy, revived the ancient form of art cameo engraving in multiple layers of glass. Galle is also noted for signing virtually all of his work, inspiring other, previously anonymous glass artisans to sign their work as well. The Galle studio closed in 1936. His influence continued through the work of the two Daum brothers, art glass makers of Nancy.

Emil Galle Art Nouveau Glassware

The Art Nouveau style was one of the first international styles, and Emil Galle embraced the forms and the vocabulary for his sinuous and sumptuous art glass creations. Collectors love Galle’s art glass that demonstrates a marriage of nature and technology

The Art Nouveau Style 1890-1914

The Art Nouveau style influenced everything from posters to pins and was possibly the first decorative style with absolutely no roots in history. Born of a desire to break new decorative ground, the Art Nouveau style rejected previous architectural and design vocabularies, taking it cues instead from the curving and sensuous forms of nature. The movement was begun by Englishman William Morris, who challenged the decline in craft and artistry of the mass produced wares of mediocre quality of the industrial revolution. Almost universal across the globe in appeal, the style was embraced with slight variations in England, Germany, Scotland, Belgium, the U.S., France, and Spain. and Austria, and by artists such as Emil Galle.

Emile Galle Biography

Born in 1846 in a family of glassmakers in Nancy (eastern France) Galle received the artistic and technical education required for the future head of the family firm. He also studied literature, art history, and botany and all his studies informed his work. Visits to London and Paris introduced Galle to new glassmaking methods including cameo glass (glass made up of two separate layers of colors, where the outermost layer is carved or acid etched to reveal the color underneath) and glass enameling (where metallic oxides are mixed with glass and painted on glass bodies that are then fired at high temperatures. This produces brilliant colors and an almost three dimensional effect).

Galle achieved commercial and critical success with his new techniques, and his work appeared in the Paris Expositions of 1878, 1884, 1889 and 1900. By 1901, his firm was the most successful manufacturer of high end art glass in Europe, and his home city of Nancy rivaled Paris as a center of Art Nouveau design. Emile Galle died in 1904. The factory continued to produce his glassware. Pieces manufactured after his death are engraved with a symbolic star next to his engraved signature.

Art Glass Designs by Galle

Heavily influenced by the beauty of nature, Galle’s designs feature curving and sinuous forms and applied decoration. Due to his careful study of botany, his glass pieces portray all species of flowers romantically yet realistically executed. Other Art Nouveau motifs included beetles, ants, moths, butterflies, trees, fossils and dragonflies. One of his commonly used plant motifs was the thistle, native to the province of his birth. During his years at the factory, he produced vases, lamps, bowls, jardinieres and other tableware.

Galle Art Glass Values

Galle art class is highly collectible, and prices have been rising steadily for the last ten to twenty years. Collectors can expect to spend less for smaller simpler pieces, and more for the elaborate and highly decorated larger pieces. As a general rule, pieces made during Emil Galle’s tenure fetch higher prices, but as with most general rules, this can be broken by extremely fine examples of later work.

Reference: Miller, Judith, Collector’s Guide to Art Nouveau, DK Collector’s Books, c2004.

-Reference note by p4A contributing editor Susan Cramer.

About This Site

Internet Antique Gazette is brought to you by Prices4Antiques.