Maurice Dufrène (French, 1876–1955)
Purchase, Gift of Susan Dwight Bliss, by exchange, 2001 (2001.551.1a,b–10a,b)
Around 1900, designers explored a variety of new design concepts. The most revolutionary of these completely rejected the historicism of the nineteenth century, which had seen a succession of revivalist styles. This porcelain tea and coffee service illustrates a new and radically different approach to the design of everyday objects and exemplifies the Art Nouveau style, particularly popular in France and Belgium, with its free-flowing lines and organic forms.
Julius Meier-Graefe commissioned the design, which was intended for mass production, for his Paris shop, La Maison Moderne. The shop was in business from 1899 until 1904 as a competitor to Siegfried Bing's famous L'Art Nouveau, which gave its name to the avant-garde style of the day. The service was likely made by a factory at Limoges.
This service represents one of Dufrène's earliest projects, realized upon completion of his studies at the École des Arts Décoratifs and after being hired as director and manager of La Maison Moderne. Eventually he became one of the best-known French Art Deco ensembliers (able to design and fabricate every element for a complete and harmonious interior), heading up La Maîtrise design studio at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris.