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Selected Works

TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020
TEFAF Maastricht 2020

The Modernists
Jourdain | Sognot | Old | Caillette | Philippon & Lecoq

Eugène Leroy
« Les années 50 »

TEFAF Maastricht
Demisch Danant | Stand #606
Maastricht Exhibition & Congress Center, Forum 100
Maastricht, Netherlands

Preview: March 5-6, 2020
March 7-15, 2020

For TEFAF Maastricht 2020, Demisch Danant presents The Modernists, a selection of important French furniture conceived by three generations of designers of the 20th century. This group all shared the same principles of modernity—simplicity and functionality—and were considered radicals in their time.

In addition to French furniture from the early 1920s through the late 1960s, Demisch Danant also presents Eugène Leroy: Les années 50, featuring paintings by Eugène Leroy. Although not widely recognized in his earlier periods of the 1950s and 1960s because of a more traditional style, Leroy’s genius and talent was acutely articulated at this early stage.

Exhibition highlights include an Asymmetric and Stepped Modernist Console (c. 1928) by Francis Jourdain, commissioned for a prestigious client’s 600-square-meter Parisian living room, originally from a pair among a larger group of furniture that Jourdain designed for its interior. The pair of asymmetrical consoles were considered a part of the architecture to divide and structure the oversized space. The stepped shape of the console is characteristic of Jourdain’s “repertoire of shapes,” emphasizing the idea that exhibiting objects in a room and using the furniture to display them is essential. Designed during the period of creation when the Union des Artistes Moderne (UAM) was established in 1929, the console is historically and aesthetically important in Jourdain’s creative development.

Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq were brilliant exemplars of the intellectual rigor, lucidity and balance that characterized French furniture production in the 1950s and 1960s. Another important highlight, Philippon and Lecoq’s Desk (1967) is a pure piece of architecture, structured by three pieces of glass—legs and top—supporting the body of the desk made of wood. In 1959, Philippon and Lecoq designed a glass desk in a simpler configuration and won second prize in the “use of glass products in furniture” competition in 1960.  In 1967, the couple reinterpreted the design of their desk for Mobilier National. The first models made by the Mobilier National furnished the offices of the French Pavilion of the International Exhibition of Montreal in 1967. The desk presented here at TEFAF came from this commission which had remained in Montreal since 1967.

Other examples of prestigious commissions on view include a rare Chair (1947) by Colette Gueden commissioned by the Mobilier National in 1947 for the Élysée Palace children’s room and a Pair of Armchairs (c.1962) and a Low Table (c. 1962) designed by Maxime Old for the original interior of the “Grand Salon des première classes” also called “Salon Fontainebleau,” the most illustrious living space on the SS France

The Modernists is part of a series entitled Sources of Modernity that seeks to establish relationships and links between the former generation of pioneers of UAM including Francis Jourdain, Pierre Chareau, René Herbst, and the following generation active in the 40s and 50s, like Louis Sognot, Maxime Old, Jacques Dumond and Marcel Gascoin, were inspired by the research and accomplishments of their mentors, trained the young emerging designers of the early 50s and 60s, including Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq, , René-Jean Caillette, and Joseph-André Motte, as teachers and employers. Dumond and others inspired the younger designers to lead the way in creating modern furniture for a larger audience.  Finally, the industry harnessed a way to translate UAM concepts of mass productions to a “modernist” utopia.


About the Designers

About the Designers

Francis Jourdain (1876-1958) is deemed to be the pioneer of the French modernist movement and the inventor of the concept of furniture in series in the 20s. He created his own manufacturing company; but unfortunately, it was not successful.

Most likely ahead of his time, Jourdain’s socially minded ambition of creating modern and simplified furniture at lower cost for working class did not became a reality until 30 years later in the 50s when a larger industry with new machines and larger access to modern material finally made it possible to produce furniture in series.

Like many of his contemporaries, Jourdain was obliged to spend of much his time working on private commissions for a more affluent clientele, creating sophisticated furniture using luxurious materials. However, the extravagant character of these projects from the late 20s didn’t conflict with Jourdain’s social principles; these projects still allowed him to translate his concepts of simplicity and function both in architecture and furniture, always rejecting the ornamental.  


Louis Sognot (1892-1970) was an interior designer with an extremely long and productive career starting in the 1920s up to the 1960s. Mostly known for his innovative design using new material during his collaboration with Charlotte Alix in the 1930s, Sognot was deeply involved in the UAM and became a strong mentor for the next generation.

Later, Sognot would shift from the functionalist movement’s radical views and establish his production in a comfortable and sophisticated manner, more connected to his own interior design concepts.

Along with the new materials of glass and metal, rattan started to be incorporated in furniture because of its ease of use and ability to translate organic and complex shapes into sculptural design. After WWII, Sognot started to use rattan intensively and continued up until the mid 60s.

The combination of a post-war economic state, when wood and rattan were more obtainable than metal, along with Sognot’s natural expressions, resulted in a more poetical vocabulary of shapes in Sognot’s work.


Maxime Old (1910-1991) was a French interior architect and furniture designer and the grandson and son of fine cabinetmakers. He received his formal training at École Boulle in Paris and after worked as an apprentice for Ruhlmann.

Old was widely recognized by his innovative techniques and use of new materials to achieve creative functional designs.

In 1961, Old designed the interior of the “Grand Salon des première classes” also called “Salon Fontainebleau,” the most prestigious living space of the SS France.  He designed various models of chairs, armchairs and low tables for this environment. Like other furniture designed for the SS France, only few survived the various renovations of the last decades in the ocean liner’s history.


Reclaiming the values of the UAM, Antoine Philippon (1930–1995) and Jacqueline Lecoq (b.1932) set out to create functional furniture in great numbers, without compromising aesthetics or function. Philippon began as a student of the École Boulle and Lecoq attended L’École Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs. They first met in 1954 and their extraordinary collaboration would last until Philippon's death in 1995.

Through the 1950s and 60s they presented regularly at the Salon des Art Ménagers and the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs of which Philippon was president from 1970–72. They participated at the Expositions Universelles de Bruxelles in 1958 and Montreal 1967, and collaborated on numerous commissions for the Mobilier National. The President Desk is among their most well-known pieces.

Renowned for their stylistic purity, respect for material took the highest priority in Philippon and Lecoq’s work.


René-Jean Caillette (1919–2005) always intended to follow in his father’s footsteps, a woodworker, but not in exactly the same way. For him, the beauty of furniture came from functionality and simplicity of line. George Charron, a French furniture manufacturer, discovered Caillette’s work in 1950. This led to the creation of Group 4, a collaboration among Caillette, Alain Richard, Geneviève Dangles and Joseph-André Motte. Caillette went on to design for Charron until 1972.

Caillette received the René Gabriel prize in 1952 and the silver medal at the Milan Triennale in 1962. The Diamond Chair, designed in 1958 and editioned by Steiner, remains one of the most signature chairs of this period. “It is,” he said, “the purest and the easiest to fabricate of my models in molded plywood. I designed it with a piece of cardboard, telling myself that if the cardboard could fold, then so could wood.” (From Favardin, Patrick, Les Décorateurs des Années 50, 2002.)


Eugène Leroy (1910–2000) is an important French painter of the second half of the 20th century who lived and worked in northern France.

His work remained largely unknown up to the early 80s when the German Art dealer Michael Werner who, influenced by Baselitz, who had discovered Leroy’s works in Paris in the 60s, started to exhibit him internationally.

Leroy’s paintings have been unjustly associated with Expressionism or Neo-Expressionism, mostly recognizable by his consistent use of the impasto technique.  Often, Leroy worked for years on several works, covering the canvas with countless layers of paint.

Leroy’s earlier periods of the 1950s and 1960s haven’t been widely recognized because of a more traditional style; but even so, his genius and talent were acutely articulated at this early stage, moving naturally and constantly from figuration to abstraction. 

In 1996, Leroy was awarded the Grand Prix Nationale de la Peinture.

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