Maurice Dufrène

1876 - 1955

Born in Paris, Maurice Dufrène was preoccupied with designing things even as a child. He grew up collecting scrap pieces of wood, fabric and cardboard from his father’s wholesale commodities business and would work them into creations in his own make-shift atelier. While still a student at l'Ecole des Art Décoratifs, he began his career working for Julius Meier-Graefe in 1899, at the age of just 23. He soon became the director and manager of La Maison Moderne, an association of artists who worked together to create designs which could be produced in multiples. There he became affiliated with some of the leading designers of the period, among them van de Velde, Horta, Plumet and Selmersheim. Dufrene quickly moved to the forefront of modern design and in 1904 became a founding member of the Salon des Artistes Decorateurs, through which he exhibited for thirty years. His furniture designs in the early period eschewed much of the traditional Art Nouveau ornamentation. Neat and logical, it was frequently embellished with a recurring carved scroll motif.

In addition to furniture, Dufrène designed stoneware and porcelain as well as objects in wood, metal, glass, and leather. By 1919 he had evolved a pure Deco style, and he exhibited regularly at the Salon d'Autumne. In 1921 Dufrène was put in charge of the newly created La Maîtrise design workshop at the Galeries Lafayette, where he designed furniture, fabric, carpets, wallpapers, silverware, glassware, and ceramics. His inspiration was taken from 18th and 19th Century designs, with a modern approach.

In 1925 he designed the La Maîtrise pavilion at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et d'Industrie. Dufrene’s designs included luxury boutiques, the living room of Une Ambassade Française pavilion, and the interior of La Maîtrise pavilion. As architecture and design became more influenced by function, modern materials and mass production, Dufrène's earlier predilection for wood gradually gave way to metal and glass. His interiors ranged eclectically from townhouses to avant-garde to glass, metal and mirrors, to commissions from Mobilier National for embassies and the Palais de l’Elysée in Paris. Dufrene’s inherent ability to adapt to changing taste and materials helped keep him at the forefront of design throughout the course of his career, and certain of his pieces are in the collections of the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, as well as many others.



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