André Groult was a French furniture and interior designer associated with post-Art Nouveau decorative arts trends including the Art Deco movement. His wife, Nicole Groult (née Pauline Marie Poiret), was a couturier who operated a successful fashion house. The Groults’s social and professional activities frequently intertwined. Also well-connected within Paris’s art scene, the Groults established personal and professional relationships with numerous artists, collectors, and dealers, including those belonging to the Cubist circles.
André studied the science at the Sorbonne and briefly worked for his father’s journal l’Acclimatation. Nicole was the daughter of a textile merchant who developed an interest in the world of fashion, along with her siblings, the fashion designers Paul Poiret and Germaine Bongard (née Germaine Poiret) and jewelry designer Jeanne Boivin (née Jeanne Poiret). The Groults married in 1907 and soon after opened an antique furniture and décor business. Approximately three years later, André commenced his career as furniture and decorative arts designer and interior decorator, while Nicole began designing women’s garments.
In 1910 André joined the Société des artistes décorateurs (SAD), and began to exhibit regularly at the decorative arts section of Salon d’Automne. At the 1912 Salon, he contributed wallpaper designs to Maison Cubiste, a project directed by André Mare comprising three domestic interiors and a façade. It incorporated furniture by Mare, mirrors by Marie Laurencin, a coffee set by Jacques Villon, and Cubist paintings by Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, Jean Metzinger, Roger de La Fresnaye, Marcel Duchamp, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon. The Groults befriended and collaborated with a number of artists and fellow designers, among them Laurencin, who became a lifelong family friend, as well as client and collaborator. Through Laurencin, the Groults met Guillaume Apollinaire. They also befriended Louis Süe, Kees van Dongen, André Derain, and Francis Picabia. The Groults’s ties to the art community were strengthened through their Galerie André Groult, registered at 31, rue d’Anjou as of 1912, the same address as the Groults’s other enterprises. In 1912, with assistance from the art dealers Paul Rosenberg and Josef (Jos) Hessel, the gallery mounted an exhibition of Odilon Redon and showed works by Jean Emile Laboureur. The gallery’s group exhibition in April–May 1914 included Cubist works by Duchamp, Duchamp-Villon, Villon, Gleizes, and Metzinger. André Salmon authored the exhibition catalogue preface. Just months later, at the outbreak of World War I, the gallery closed. André volunteered for military service while Nicole continued to be active on the art market while pursuing her fashion career.
Both André and Nicole’s careers thrived in the post-war years. André’s furniture designs of the period, which combined traditional and modernist elements, were characterized as simple but highly refined. He became especially known for his use of shagreen, leather made from sharkskin identified by its granular surface. In 1925 André collaborated with Laurencin on the Chambre de Madame for a French Foreign Embassy at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, a project sponsored by the French government and executed by the members of SAD. In 1928 he collaborated with the sculptor Ossip Zadkine. Nicole’s dress designs were characterized by similar design qualities of simplicity paired with high quality materials and refined execution, and as such, contributed to the modernization of the women’s wardrobe. Her clientele included women associated with artistic and intellectual circles, among them Maria Huxley, Sara Murphy, Olga Picasso, as well as ballet dancers and actresses. The Groults’s art collection included works by their artist friends and designers. In 1921, André purchased a still life painting by Georges Braque at the Kahnweiler sequestration sales. The work is possibly Glass of Absinthe (1911; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney).
Although the financial difficulties caused by the 1929 economic crisis forced her to close her fashion house in 1935, Nicole soon resumed her activities working with such clients as Marie-Laure de Noailles, Berthe Bovy, Dorothy Parker, Magde Garland, and Virginia Woolf. Less influential after World War II, both André and Nicole nonetheless remained active in their respective fields until the 1960s.