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Collage Meets Glass: Les Gemmaux de France

Pont de Grenelle (Grenelle Bridge) Les Gemmaux de France
Pont de Grenelle (Grenelle Bridge)(1959). Design by Louis Gilis; technique invented by artist Jean Crotti (1870-1958); panel assembled by “gemmists” in the Paris studio of Roger Malherbe-Navarre called Les Gemmaux de France. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

This piece caught my eye at the Corning Museum of Glass.  It was mounted in front of a lightbox and the colors of glass emerged in glowing layers.  Before I started making mosaics, I made collages with magazine paper and the Gemmail technique is like having those scraps of paper turn to glass.  Artist Jean Crotti wanted to incorporate light into his paintings in a new way and began working with thin glass glued and then fused, and called it Gemmail from combining the French words for gem and enamel(Gemmaux in the plural).

Crotti sought advice on the logistics of his technique with his neighbors, the Malherbe-Navarre family, physicists studying light and fluorescence.  Eventually Roger Malherbe-Navarre became the primary maker of Gemmail, and artists like Braque and Picasso were enchanted, and wanted to translate their paintings into glass and light.

A reviewer of a set of Gemmail windows, Winefride Wilson from a 1964 issue of Tablet, was ambivalent, torn between the wonder of the effect and concern that it reminded her of childhood kaleidoscopes, and hard to take seriously.  I have no such reservations ~ I am on the side of wonder.

 

Jean Crotti and Georges Braque, ca. 1956 / Guy Suignard, photographer. Jean Crotti papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

Pablo Picasso: Le Gemmail

A Brief History of Gemmaux, Corning Museum of Glass

Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art

 

 

 

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