Stool, ca. 1925
Pierre Legrain (French, 1889–1929)
Rosewood; H. 12 in. (30.5 cm), W. 29 in. (73.7 cm), D. 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1972 (1972.283.1)
By the late nineteenth century, the enormously successful Parisian couturier Jacques-Antoine Doucet (1853–1929) had amassed a considerable fortune with which he acquired an important collection of French ancien-régime art and furniture, together with a formidable research library on the subject. In 1912, he sold the collection and moved, the following year, into an apartment in the avenue du Bois de Boulogne (now avenue Foch) which he decorated in an "advanced" manner, with furniture by many of the first generation of French Art Deco designers and paintings by modern French masters. To house his growing new collection, in the late 1920s he created (with the help of the architect Paul Ruaud) a small "studio" on a property he owned in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-Saint-James (at 33, rue Saint-James), completed around 1929. Its contents formed a checklist of the most important names of the day: furnishings by Marcel Coard, Eileen Gray, Paul Iribe, René-Jules Lalique, Pierre Legrain, Maurice Marinot, Gustav Miklos, Clement Rousseau, and Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann; artwork by Cézanne, de Chirico, Degas, Ernst, Derain, Manet, Matisse, Miró, Monet, Picabia, Picasso, Rousseau, Seurat, and Van Gogh. As a complement, Doucet also commissioned a modern library compiled under the direction of the writers André Suarès, André Breton, and Louis Aragon; each book was bound in an exquisite, one-of-a-kind binding by Legrain, Rose Adler, or Jeanne Langrand. On his death, Doucet left a number of his best known works to the French state, including the famous Snake Charmer by Rousseau, now in the Louvre. The Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon, one of the seminal works of twentieth-century art. Much of his furniture now forms a very solid part of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, while his library is housed at the Université de Paris.
Doucet also had impressive collections of Asian and African art. This stool is an adaptation of a traditional African form used for both stools and headrests. Legrain clearly understood the principles and aesthetics of both modern and African art to a degree that most other designers of the period did not—perhaps the result of spending considerable time with Doucet and his collection.