val Saint Lambert
The crystal glass company of Val Saint Lambert was founded at Seraing, near Liege in Belgium, in 1825 on the site of an old abbey. Amongst the early shareholders was King Guillaume I of Belgium, thus ensuring royal patronage of the company, which has continued until the present day.
Since 1839 the company has exported artistic crystal glass objects throughout the world and has been an enthusiastic exhibitor at world fairs. In 1879 the company took over the glassworks in nearby Namur and became an international sized company. At their Jemeppe-sur-meuse factory in the early 20th Century the company, under Romain Gevaert, designed a number of widely varying pieces based on their research into raw materials, including a range of oignon vases using powdered glass picked up from the marver and ‘pull-up’ techniques.
At the Brussels Exhibition of 1897 the new Art Nouveau aesthetic was enthusiastically embraced by the company under their designer Leon Ledru. The company’s skill was in casing and cutting glass, producing particularly bold effects together with naturalistic designs in the Ecôle de Nancy. Their use of multi-layered coloured glass was particularly distinctive and although this technique was used by other companies, particularly Stevens and Williams in England, no other company produced such distinctive effects, cutting through both sides of objects such as bowls with mitred wheels.
An exhibition held in Brussels in 1990 entitled ‘Val Saint Lambert, Art and Design 1880-1990’, the curator, Michele Thiry, wrote in the catalogue to this exhibition concerning the period 1920-1940, ‘This period is characterised by a remarkable commercial dynamism. At a large number of international exhibitions (such as Paris 1925, Liege 1930, and Brussels 1935) Val Saint Lambert presented some altogether modern pieces. Abundant ornamentation and naturalism gradually disappeared in favour of geometrical sobriety closely linked to constructivism and contrasting colours. This aesthetic point of view was taken under the impulse of Leon Ledru and further developed by Joseph Simon, who became head of the creation department in 1926.’
Joseph Simon had succeeded Leon Ledru the year after the Paris Exhibition of 1925 had introduced Art Deco to the wider world. The technical abilities of the company were well suited to their new geometrical designs which are immediately recognisable and unique to the company.
The remarkably complete artistic education of Charles Graffart and his high capabilities as a creator of forms, of cutting and engraving, and also as a brilliant craftsmen rendered him a master of his art. His strong personality was fully recognized during his great period of creativity from 1926-1929, when he designed and engraved about 300 unique pieces which are now dispersed all over the world.
Despite the asset of the depression, Val-Saint-Lambert kept on participating in important exhibitions with pieces of finest quality, design and decoration. Its models were exhibited in Liege (1930), in Vincennes (1931), in Antwerp (1932) and in Brussels (1935).