Clément Massier’s shimmering, iridescent ceramics epitomised the Art Nouveau movement. Everyday objects - plant holders, vases and crockery - were transformed into spectacular blooming flowers or writhing plant and animal forms. At the height of his fame, Massier was awarded gold medals at the Universal Exhibitions of 1889 and in 1898 and was invited to exhibit fifteen works at the Salon of the Society of French Artists.
The metallic shimmer of many of Massier’s works, known as lustre, was a technique which probably originated in Iraq in the 19th century B.C. As a boy, Massier had learnt much from Gandolfi Gaetano, one of his father’s employees who originated the technique of enamelled earthenware in nineteenth-century France. He began his research on metallic lustre around 1886-7 and began making artistic earthenware models in different colours - fiery reds, yellows and gold and at the opposite side of the colour spectrum, his favourite colour turquoise, of which this plant holder is a glowing example.
Clément Massier was the grandson of the famous potter Pierre Massier (1707-1748) who had begun his own ceramic business before the French Revolution. Clément and his two brothers Delphin (1836-1907) and Jean-Baptiste (1850-1916) each started their own artistic earthenware factories, and exchanged ideas and inspiration. For example, Clément’s brother Delphin also made a version of this Art Nouveau dolphin plant holder his own factory. By 1897 Clément’s factory employed sixty five workers and he invited some of the greatest artist and craftsmen in France to design for the factory, including Alexandre Munroe, Optat Millet and Lucien Levy-Dhurmer.