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Ten Things You Didn't Know: G. Argy-Rousseau

G. Argy-Rousseau gifts of innovation and scientific experimentation are at the backbone of his most prized development, the pâte-de-verre casting technique he used to create his masterpieces of glass.
Wolf in Winter Argy-Rousseau vase

Seldom-seen 'wolf in the winter' scene on a pâte-de-verre vase by Argy-Rousseau that claimed top lot with a sale price of $34,957 during James D. Julia's Nov. 18, 2016 auction. (All photos courtesy James D. Julia)

1G. Argy-Rousseau had a fascination with chemistry early on that played a significant role in much of his professional career; so much so that at one point he described himself as an “engineer-ceramist.” This fusion of art and science led to his spearheading the development of the pâte-de-verre (glass paste) casting technique that he utilized to create his glasswork masterpieces.

2 An uncommon ‘wolf in the winter’ design encircles the center of a pâte-de-verre vase by Rousseau that sold for $34,957 during James D. Julia Inc.’s Nov. 19, 2016 auction. The vase (pictured at right) includes the signature “G. Argy-Rousseau” in cameo on the side of the vase.

3 His professional name is a combination of his birth name (Joseph-Gabriel Rousseau) and his wife’s maiden name (Marianne Argyriades). The two were married in 1913. He was born in France (1885) and she in Greece.

4 Among his first ‘large scale’ showings was at the 1914 Exposition du Salon des Artistes Français (Salon of French artists), an annual art exhibition dating back to 1881, and held in Paris.

Nature and Nurture Present in Argy-Rousseau Work

5 Characteristics of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles of design are prevalent in his work, with elements of nature (flowers, animals), feminine figures and aspects of early mythology appearing most often.

6 During James D. Julia Inc.’s Fall 2016 Lamps, Glass & Fine Jewelry Auction, a footed pâte-de-verre bowl (pictured above), boasting a rich design of blackberries encircling both the interior and exterior against a frosted background, realized $1,185. Signed “G. Argy Rousseau” on the side, the bowl’s design further includes blackberry leaves and vines.

7 To help spread the word about the unique pieces being created at Société Anonyme des Pâtes de Verre d’Argy-Rousseau — the company he formed with gallery and glass works owner Gustave Moser-Millot — Argy-Rousseau took out advertisements in magazines both within Europe and America. He also invested time and effort in creating leaflets that spoke about the intricate technique used to create the unconventional and illustrious glassworks.

Innovation Aids In Assembly, For A While

Argy-Rouseau bowl_Courges pattern

G. Argy-Rousseau pate de verre bowl in the Courges pattern, which sold for $4,147 at auction Nov. 18, 2016.

8 With the spirit of invention very much alive in him, Argy-Rousseau filed several patents during WWI for possible use by the military. In addition, as a time and cost-savings measure, he developed processes that also resulted in production that was more assembly efficient. However, as the world suffered financial despair in 1929 the market for this high-profile glass shrunk.

9 Pieces by Argy-Rousseau that sold during James D. Julia’s Nov. 19, 2016 auction ranged in price from $1,185 to nearly $35,000. There are a few examples of Argy-Rousseau’s elegant glasswork from this auction that did not sell. (This includes the cendrier ashtray pictured at the top of the page, as part of the 10 Things You Didn’t Know logo). The items will only be open to offers for a short period of time, visit for more information.

Returning From Hence He Began

10 Despite attempting to form his own studio — following the closure of his partnered company — the shift in interest from Argy-Rousseau’s style of art glass to opalescent glass produced by Lalique and Daum, and the impact World War II had on access to raw material left Argy-Rousseau somewhat in the same place he began. Before his death in 1953, he finished his career working at a factory producing commercial porcelain, much like the one where he began his career. Today his glassworks attract attention at auctions and museums, and his techniques appeal to a new generation of glass artists.

Compiled by Antoinette Rahn