Emile Decoeur

Emile Decoeur – Stoneware vase

Emile Decoeur

Stoneware vase

Date : c. 1930

Dimensions : H. 16,5 D. 7 cm / H. 6,3 D. 2,75 inch

place of production: Fontenay-aux-Roses (Ile-de-France)

Material : Stoneware

Condition : Excellent


of work


The excellence and mastery of Emile Decoeur’s high-fired ceramics are perfectly expressed in this sober, elegant little high-necked vase. Probably made around 1930, the peak of Decoeur’s work.
The heel of the vase is highlighted by a discreet brown fillet and the entire lip by a glossy brown fillet with a bluish sheen, typical of Emile Decoeur’s work.
The upper part of the neck is encircled by a milky band delineated by delicate brown-green lines, subtly marked in the material. Inherent to many of Decoeur’s works, two fine striations mark the base of the body of this vase. The perfectly balanced glaze, reminiscent of the evanescent mists of certain Chinese paintings, deploys soft colors combining ivory, pearly and pinkish ochre with a mottled green-brown. The texture, premised on a snakeskin covering, can be guessed and felt under the hand. The interior of the vase reveals a more homogenous glaze with deeper hues.

Like the brown lip, evocative of the metal circle that Chinese potters applied to the edges of their wares, the shape of this vase shows the influence that Chinese potters of the Song and Yuan dynasties had on Emile Decoeur and his conception and philosophy of ceramics.
They are the masters“, he liked to say.
The material of choice for high-fire ceramics (firing temperatures in excess of 1000°C), porcelain stoneware, perfected in 1927 by Emile Decoeur, enabled him to create form and substance simultaneously.
Unlike enamel, a simple vitrified coating that covers earthenware, the high-fire glaze truly merges with the body of the vase. Continuity is created between the glaze and the shard of the vase. Similar in composition to porcelain stoneware, the glaze is intimately united with the latter by the Grand Feu vitrification, expressing the real material that gives shape to the vase. For Emile Decoeur, following the example of his oriental masters, his ceramics could be nothing other than “material with form“.

vue de l'intérieur du col du vase art déco beige d'Emile Decoeur. On y voit le liseret brun caractéristique

"They are the masters!" proclaimed Émile Decoeur of the Chinese potters of the Song and Yuan dynasties from whom he drew his inspiration.

portrait dessiné du céramiste emile decoeur en train de faire un vase au tour de potier

Emile Decoeur

Paris (France) 1876 - Fontenay-aux-Roses (France) 1953

A Western master of ceramics, Emile Decoeur benefits from a double filiation, spiritual and practical, of the most illustrious. These include Japanese, Chinese and Korean oriental master potters and the great French Art Nouveau ceramists Théodore Deck and Edmond Lachenal.
Orphaned from both parents at the age of 13, Emile Decoeur had the good fortune to be apprenticed in Paris at 14 to the great ceramist Edmond Lachenal (1855-1948), himself a pupil of the renowned Théodore Deck ( 1823 – 1891).
From his illustrious forebears, Emile Decoeur adopted the exacting standards of workmanship, perfectionism, mastery and originality that made French ceramics great in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Demanding and probably influenced by his master Edmond Lachenal, Emile Decoeur completed his apprenticeship with scientific instruction at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers and artistic instruction with drawing classes at the Forney library, richly endowed with Japanese prints.
Present at all the major shows (Salons d’Automne, des Artistes Français, des Artistes décorateurs, etc.), Decoeur also took part in international (World Fairs in Liège, Milan, Brussels, etc.) and national exhibitions. His work was always noticed and acclaimed.

Two key encounters, one in 1907 with the wealthy American collector Atherton Curtis, the other in 1908 with the Frenchman Georges Rouart, an important gallery owner who also distributed the work of artists such as Emile Gallé, René Lalique and Auguste Delaherche, had a considerable influence on Emile Decoeur’s reputation, which became international by 1910.
Initially inspired by Art Nouveau and Japanese potters, Emile Decoeur’s style gradually asserted itself towards purity, sobriety and simplicity at the turn of the 20s. This trend was typical of the entire Art Deco movement, and was also the result of the influence on ceramists of the time of 10th-century Chinese and Korean potters, who were rediscovered at the time and shown in private and public exhibitions and collections.
Sought-after grandmaster and recognized as a major figure in the decorative arts, the ceramist is represented in numerous private and public collections. In 1942, Emile Decoeur was appointed artistic advisor to the Manufacture de Sèvres, the temple of French ceramics.
Demanding and perfectionist in his art, he was just as demanding of himself. Emile Decoeur was a man of great moral fortitude, who categorically refused to do business with the German occupiers, shutting down his workshop in Fontenay-aux-Roses during the Occupation. Although sought-after and coveted, the ceramist turned down every offer made to him by the authorities of the day, and he even refrained from producing a single vase during this period.

the work

in its context

Most probably made around 1930, this vase by ceramist Emile Decoeur is the expression of a French aesthetic context, that of Art Deco and the rediscovery of Chinese and Korean potters, but also of relatively recent technical know-how, the fruit of experiments at the turn of the century by French ceramists seeking to master high-fire ceramics (firing temperatures in excess of 1200°C).
At the turn of the 1910s, in reaction to Art Nouveau, a general desire for sobriety, discipline and clarity emerged. In the tradition of “grand French taste”, a contemporary aesthetic imbued with rationality and mastery, but also with tradition and elegance, flourished during this period.
Like the ceramist Emile Decoeur, other great masters of ceramics such as Emile Lenoble and Henri Simmen, great glassmakers such as René Lalique, and coppersmiths such as Jean Dunand and Claudius Linossier embodied the spirit of the age in their art.
At the same time, there was a new interest in ancient Chinese ceramics (Tang, Song and Yuan). Rediscovered a few decades earlier during archaeological excavations in China, and promoted through exhibitions and the enrichment of public collections in major museums such as the Louvre, Chinese and Korean pottery strengthened and influenced not only the aesthetic expression of the great French ceramists, but also their discipline and practice.
The desire to follow in the footsteps of their oriental masters and to master the art of high-fire ceramics, combined with the fact that the act of producing a vase was no longer just a practical activity but also an intellectual one, led ceramists of the period such as Emile Decoeur, Auguste Delaherche and Georges Serré to carry out numerous investigations and experiments on materials, firings and reactions to fire. This led to a number of innovations and rediscoveries, including firing methods, the development of compound clays and experiments with engobes and glazes suitable for high-firing.

Vase en grès noir d'Emile Decoeur
Vase en grès noir d'Emile Decoeur

It’s also worth noting that in 1925, the high point of the Art Deco movement (but not designated as such until 1960), Emile Decoeur was present at the Exposition Internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris, both as a juror and as an artist. Along with goldsmith Jean Puiforçat and glassmaker François Decorchemont, ceramist Emile Decoeur was exhibited in the Ruhlmann pavilion in the Hôtel du Collectionneur.
The 1925 Exhibition is considered to be that of Art Deco, but it was also the site of a new aesthetic dialectic between two minds, two currents both reacting to Art Nouveau.
The first, driven by Art Deco as such, was mainly expressed at the 1925 International Exhibition. It celebrated French elegance and luxury, and was perfectly represented by the Ruhlmann pavilion, with its 17th-century-inspired interior design, and by the Société des Artistes Décorateurs, which proposed the creation of a French Embassy. The other, in germ in this exhibition, reveals a “new spirit”, that of modernism, influenced by industry and progress, geometry and purity.
Our vase is perfectly representative of this aesthetic dialectic, and its soft colors are reminiscent of the ivory, mica and shagreen used by such great French artists and decorators as André Groult, Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann and Jean-Michel Frank. In their quest for aesthetic purity, these artists eschewed opulent decoration and heavy ornamentation in favor of material and form as the expression of a perfect mastery of their art.

vase song beige du Metropolitan museum de New York inspiration des vases d'Emile Decoeur


Giraud, M., Fravalo, F., Emile Decoeur, 1876-1953. Paris : Galerie Michel Giraud, 2008

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