Edgar Brandt 1880–1960

Prolific French ironworker and weapons designer Edgar Brandt was a pioneering figure in French decorative art of the early to mid-20th century. Born in Paris, he trained at the École Nationale Professionnelle de Vierzon and by age 15 was already the most accomplished ironsmith at the school. He also mastered mathematics and emerging technologies such as torch welding and power hammers, which added to the sophistication of his work.

After graduating at the age of 18, Brandt served in the military for two years in Nancy and, upon seeing that the French infantry lacked light versatile long target-range weapons, was sent back to Paris with an order to produce a 60mm mortar and ammunition. Brandt successfully designed 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars which were widely copied in both WWI and WWII. He opened his first business in 1902 for the production of both ironwork and light armaments, and it was not long before he was making a broad range of wrought-iron works from gateways, grills, radiator covers, and elevator doors to lamp bases, consoles, screens, and chairs.

At 29, Brandt was hailed by the influential publication Art et Décoration as the rising star of metalwork design. In 1919 he inherited a machine shop from his father and was able to open and staff a larger studio with thirty metalworks and designers along with architect Henri Favier. Just several years later, he played a major role in the famous Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes of 1925: Brandt designed monumental grills for the entrance of the Salon de réception of the French Embassy and was also responsible for the installation of the Pavillon du Collectionneur by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

Brandt’s star only continued to rise as the years progressed, allowing him to take on more custom commissions for private homes and apartments. He opened galleries in New York and Paris and his skills were in high demand, with everyone from the rich and famous to hotels, embassies, and ocean liners clamoring for his creations. Brandt participated in countless salons and exhibitions, was awarded numerous prizes, and completed important public works including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe, Paris. He was awarded the title of Knight of the Legion of Honor and received the Medal of Honor for Applied Art from the Société des Artistes Français.

Brandt is widely considered to be the single greatest exponent of Art Deco metalwork and his myriad accomplishments and exceptional quality of his work make him one of the most impressive artists of the 20th century.

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