Ancient Meets Modern

The Innovation of Jean Dunnand

Fascinated by the mysterious beauty of Japanese lacquer, Jean Dunand sought out the master artist Seizo Sugawara to learn the craft, thereby becoming one of the first western artists to work in the ancient technique known as urushi. This traditional lacquer technique involves a delicate mixture of cinnabar and poisonous sap, which is applied in dozens of successive ultra-thin layers.  Each layer requires finer grades of polishing, ultimately creating an extraordinary surface with both rich depth and high sheen. In addition to this technique, Dunand’s pioneering use of coquille d’oeuf created a complex lacquer surface on the top with visually stunning craquelure giving the table a light texture and subtle patterning. Used on small objects the eggshell lacquer lends itself well to the graphic quality of the visual patterns, much like inlay.  In larger panels, the eggshell allows subtle patterns to appear through the natural craquelure and the quiet nuances of the eggshells, a quality important to a pure example of Art Deco design. The present lot, composed of simplified vertical and horizontal elements, relates to the then contemporary avant-garde movements of De Stijl and Russian Constructivism through its direct coloration and deliberate form.  But more so, it embodies the essential tenets of Japanese lacquer work, in that the character of the form should be enhanced, and not obscured by the use of lacquer. Transforming the ancient art of lacquer work by applying it to clean, precise, Art Deco forms, Dunand created an innovative expression of design that married ancient and modern. 

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