Philadelphia, PA (August 1999) ... Edgar Brandt: Art Deco Ironwork and Photographs from the Atelier, the first of its kind exhibition and sale, will be presented at the Moderne Gallery, 111 N. Third Street, in Philadelphia, PA from October 8 to December 24, 1999. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm. (215-923-8536)
Edgar Brandt (1880-1960), a consummate artist-blacksmith, combined traditional forging methods with emerging technologies of the machine age such as torch welding and power hammers. While aligning art with industrial methods, Brandt produced objets d’art and embellished buildings and monuments in the style that today is labeled “Art Deco.” Building on the pioneering work of the artist-blacksmith Emile Robert, Brandt became a leading force during a period of great achievement in French decorative arts. He created an entirely new aesthetic for wrought smithing and left behind an impressive number of art historical works.
The Moderne Gallery exhibit has been made possible through a collaboration with the decorative arts/metalwork historian Joan Kahr. Her recently published book, Edgar Brandt: Master of Art Deco Ironwork (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1999), is the first to document the life and work of Brandt and serves as the basis for the project. Robert Aibel, owner/director of the Moderne Gallery, was a friend and colleague to Kahr during the years that she worked on her book.
Approximately 40 pieces of Edgar Brandt’s exquisitely crafted wrought iron work and over 200 vintage photographs from the mastercraftsman’s atelier will be on display, showing the wide range of artistry and the tremendous technological achievements of the premier metalsmith of the 20th century.
The objects on display include jewelry, vases, paperweights, mirrors, sculpture, bookends, compotes, firescreens and a console. Some objects are on loan from private collections and are not for sale; approximately 15 are available for purchase. Prices range from about $2,500 to $35,000. About half of these objects are illustrated in Kahr’s book.
The photographs on display, and now available for purchase, are from the collection of the author and were gathered by Kahr as a part of her research. Many of them are included in the Abrams’ book. They were originally used in the sales portfolio in his Ferrobrandt atelier and showroom on Park Avenue in New York City. Many are of one-of-a-kind commissions, while others are of objects which were to become famous in Brandt’s oeuvre.
Edgar Brandt: Art Deco Ironwork and Photographs from the Atelier provides an usual opportunity to present the range of the mastercraftsman’s work and to show his development over time from a jewelry designer to one of the most important designers of decorative and architectural ironwork of his time.
The photographs on exhibit are vintage sepia-tone prints that show individual objects (such as consoles, radiator covers, tables, bronze vessels, floor and table lamps, chandeliers, sconces, jewelry, etc.) and also hotels, department stores, room settings, doors, gates and monuments. The vintage photographs for sale range in price from about $250 to $850, and promise to be of interest to aficionados of photography as well as the Art Deco period and to current owners of work by Brandt.
According to Joan Kahr, “The story of how Brandt, a young man from a middle class French family, became an artist-blacksmith, an inventor, an entrepreneur — in short, a self- made man — is also the story of the evolution of metalwork in the early twentieth century.” He was masterful at using several materials at once — often combining bronze or steel, gold and silver patinas in a variety of tones — to achieve stunning results with the wrought iron. He collaborated with other designers, such as the glassmakers Daum Frères and René Lalique. Brandt drew inspiration from many cultures — Greece, Egypt, China and Japan — to create naturalistic and geometric motifs that were the epitome of the Art Deco style.
In addition to private commissions and luxury items for homes, the Brandt atelier created the ironwork for many important large-scale projects: dazzling gates, doors, tables and other objects, including the famous screenL’Oasis, at the seminal 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industrials Modernes in Paris; the Grand Théatre Municipal in Nancy; the ocean liner Paris; the Au Bon Marché department stores; the Mollien staircase at The Louvre; several French war memorials (including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe), and the headquarters of the Cheney Brothers textile company at the Madison-Belmont Building in New York. Today his work is sought after by collectors worldwide.
Decorative arts historian Joan Kahr is the leading authority on Edgar Brandt. Her new book, with an introduction by Brandt’s son François, is the first to explore the life and work of the great ferronnier in detail. She is a frequent lecturer at universities on decorative metalwork and a regular contributor to major craft and art publications.
Moderne Gallery in Philadelphia is internationally renowned for presenting the highest quality French and American Art Deco and Art Moderne objects and furniture as well as classics of 20th century design. The Gallery carries large collections of the vintage work of George Nakashima and Wharton Esherick. Since its founding in 1985, the Moderne Gallery has explored and exposed to the public important 20th century designs, designers, movements and trends. Past exhibits include presentations of French Post-War Design, Vintage Works by George Nakashima, Rethinking English Arts and Crafts, Wharton Esherick and Ruba Rombic glassware. Owner/director Robert Aibel holds a Ph.D. in Communications from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.