Designer: Jean Dunand (French (born Switzerland), Lancy 1877–1942 Paris)
Date: ca. 1930
Medium: Lacquered wood, gold
Dimensions: Each panel measures 72 3/4 x 19 x 1 in. (184.8 x 48.3 x 2.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Chow, 2006
Accession Number: 2006.585
For centuries, Asian craftsmen had customarily applied coats of natural lacquer as a decorative and protective finish for their objects. Fascinated by examples he had seen, in 1912 Dunand learned the then closely guarded secrets of traditional Asian lacquering from Seizo Sugawara, a Japanese master living in Paris. Combining age-old techniques with contemporary forms and decorative designs, Dunand himself soon began producing stylishly up-to-date furniture and decorative panels, while also experimenting with new ways of using lacquer, incorporating it into jewelry, textiles, and even society portraiture.
This spectacular screen is a tour de force of sumptuous restraint. The glimmering warmth of its monochromatic gold surface, appropriate to the solar imagery, typifies the French Art Deco approach to metallic finishes - luxurious rather than functional. While the rising sun motif may have been used either in homage to his Japanese teacher or as a subtle reference to the Asian origins of his technique, the abstract simplicity of the composition shows Dunand at his best: elegant, lyrical, and thoroughly modern.