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Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann drawings and papers, 1924-1936

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Finding aid for the Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann drawings and papers, 1924-1936

Biographical/Historical Note

Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, a Parisian interior and furniture designer, was born on August 28, 1879. Ruhlmann, a central figure in the development of the French Art Deco movement, was best known for his lavish, luxury interiors for wealthy elites.

Ruhlmann was interested in design from an early age when he began sketching everyday life. In 1900, with no formal training in cabinetmaking, Ruhlmann produced his first furniture design. It was at this time that he established a lifelong friendship with the architect and his future collaborator, Pierre Patout. In 1901, Ruhlmann began his study of landscape painting, which later became a lifelong hobby. He married Marguerite Seabrook in 1907. That same year, after the death of his father, Ruhlmann inherited Société Ruhlmann, his father's business that specialized in painting, wallpaper, and mirrors. From 1914 to 1918, Ruhlmann devoted himself to furniture-making after being declared unfit for military services in 1914. In 1919 he established the firm Ruhlmann et Laurent (REL) in Paris with Pierre Laurent, his friend and fellow decorating contractor.

In the 1920s, Ruhlmann joined several organizations, among them the Salon d'Automne and Société des Artistes Décorateurs. He was also involved in numerous exhibitions, including the Salon d'Automne and the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Ruhlmann's Pavillon du Collectionneur (also known as the Hôtel du Collectionneur) in the 1925 Exposition, was the most admired attraction at the fair and brought much fame and success to Ruhlmann. In 1924, Éditions Albert Morancé published "Harmonies": Intérieurs de Ruhlmann, a portfolio of Ruhlmann's interior design works from 1918 to 1924, presented by Romanian architect, Jean Badovici.

In August 1933, after a sudden illness, Ruhlmann wrote a detailed will planning the closure of his business upon his death. Ruhlmann died in Paris on November 15, 1933.

During the course of his life Ruhlmann changed his first name from Jacques-Émile to Émile-Jacques, leading to a certain amount of confusion among scholars as to the correct form of his name. He was registered as Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann at birth and many publications of his time referred to him as such. Among his colleagues and friends, he was known variously as Jacques-Émile, Émile, and Milo, though he was most commonly referred to as Ruhlmann. Ruhlmann himself appears to have preferred Émile-Jacques, EJ, or Émile, as evidenced in many written records he created. Moreover, many of his earlier works have monogrammed initials arranged as either EJR or ER, though over time he simplified this to just his last initial R.

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