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Amalric Walter Master of Pâte de Verre

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In the annals of decorative arts history, few names shine as brightly as that of Amalric Walter, a French glass artist whose pioneering work in the pâte de verre technique redefined the boundaries of glass art in the early 20th century. Born in 1870 in the picturesque town of Sèvres, known for its rich tradition in ceramic arts, Walter was destined to leave an indelible mark on the world of decorative arts. In this feature we take a look at the life and influence of the pioneering glass artist Amalric Walter.

Henri Berge for Amalric Walter, a pate de verre glass vase and cover, circa 1920
Henri Berge for Amalric Walter, a pate de verre glass vase and cover, circa 1920. Sold for £4,800 at Kinghams Auctioneers, July 2021.

From a young age, Walter was immersed in the world of ceramics, beginning his apprenticeship at the tender age of 15 at the renowned Sèvres Porcelain Factory. This early exposure to the meticulous craft of ceramic painting, under the guidance of his father and grandfather, both accomplished artists in their own right, set the stage for Walter’s future explorations in glass.

Walter’s artistic journey took a pivotal turn when, at the age of 30, he mastered the ancient glassmaking technique of pâte de verre. This method, which involves creating a paste of glass that is then packed into a mold and fused in a kiln, allowed for unparalleled levels of detail and coloration in glass art. Walter’s proficiency in this technique captured the attention of the Daum brothers of Nancy, leading figures in the Art Nouveau movement’s exploration of glass as an artistic medium.

Almaric Walter A Bee Covered Box Circa 1920
Almaric Walter A Bee Covered Box Circa 1920. Sold for £30,000 at Christies, March 2016.

In 1903, Walter joined the Daum factory, a move that not only afforded him his own workshop but also marked the beginning of a golden era in Art Nouveau glass art. Walter’s collaboration with Daum was characterized by a fervent period of experimentation and refinement, producing an array of works that ranged from intricate tiles and dishes to expressive busts and a captivating bestiary.

Amalric Walter’s Collaboration and Innovation with Bergé and Daum

Walter’s partnership with Henri Bergé, a talented designer and modelist he met at Daum, proved to be particularly fruitful. Together, they embarked on a creative journey that would see the production of around 100 different models, each piece a testament to their shared vision and technical prowess. Despite the challenges posed by the First World War, which led to a temporary halt in production, Walter and Bergé’s collaboration resumed post-war, culminating in the creation of over 500 models. Their works, renowned for their limited production numbers and exquisite craftsmanship, reflected a genuine perfectionism and a deep-seated passion for the art of glassmaking.

Oval Pâte De Verre Glass Tray With Moths And Flowering Tendrils c1920 by Henri Bergé for AWalter
Oval Pâte De Verre Glass Tray With Moths And Flowering Tendrils c1920 by Henri Bergé for AWalter. Sold for 11,000 Euro at VAN HAM Kunstauktionen, November 2020.

The Transition to Art Deco

As the Art Nouveau movement gave way to Art Deco, Walter adeptly navigated the changing artistic landscape. Embracing the more geometric and streamlined aesthetic of Art Deco, he began producing simpler, yet no less beautiful pieces that resonated with the contemporary taste. This period, however, was also marked by economic challenges that made the costly and labor-intensive process of pâte de verre increasingly unviable. Despite these obstacles, Walter’s commitment to his craft remained unwavering, as he continued to push the boundaries of glass art until his workshop’s closure in 1935.

Legacy and Impact

Walter’s contributions to the world of decorative arts extend far beyond the technical mastery of pâte de verre. Through his innovative approaches and collaborative spirit, he played a crucial role in elevating glass art to new heights, influencing generations of artists and leaving a lasting legacy that continues to inspire admiration and study. Walter’s work is characterized by a profound understanding of material and form, as well as an enduring fascination with the natural world, themes that imbue his creations with life and vitality.

The story of Amalric Walter is also one of perseverance and dedication to artistic integrity. Faced with the ebb and flow of artistic trends and the economic realities of his time, Walter remained steadfast in his pursuit of perfection, a trait that is evident in the exquisite detail and vibrant colors of his works. Even in the face of adversity, including the loss of his sight and the eventual closure of his studio, Walter’s passion for glass art never dimmed.

Today, Walter’s pieces are highly sought after by collectors and museums alike, cherished for their beauty, intricacy, and the unique window they provide into the evolutionary journey of glass art. While Walter’s final years were marked by hardship, his artistic legacy endures, a testament to the transformative power of creativity and the enduring appeal of pâte de verre.

From Egypt to France The Journey of Pâte-de-Verre

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