Spring and its pendant, Autumn Afternoon, were exhibited in the architecture section of the Salon du Champ-de-Mars in 1894. The simple but naturalistic composition of this richly-colored stained-glass window is typical of the late nineteenth century when painting was closely related to the decorative arts, as exemplified by the work of the Nabi group and Paul Gauguin. The most obvious stylistic resemblance, however, is to poster art, with bright flat colors, simplified forms and black outlines giving the design a cloisonné look recreated by the lead in the stained-glass window. Eugène Grasset made a name for himself in artistic circles with his illustrations for the cover of the Story of the Four Sons of Aymon (1883), a milestone in the history of graphic design and Art Nouveau with the originality of its composition with intermingled text and image and framing of Japanese inspiration. He gained widespread renown, however, for his drawing La Semeuse (The Sower) with the accompanying phrase “Je sème à tout vent” (“I sow to all winds”), created for Larousse in 1890. He produced many designs for the applied arts (posters, illustrations, jewelry etc). He was also a theorist who liked to transmit his knowledge; he taught and gave lectures, presenting his views in the form of precepts that governed his work as a whole: “The form of decorated objects should be adapted to their use… Material imposes a limitation on the accurate depiction of natural objects… ” In 1896, he published a work entitled The Plant and its Ornamental Applications, which became a source of inspiration for many creators. From 1897 onward, he contributed to the magazines Art et Decoration and L’Estampe et l’Affiche. He taught “history and letter design” at the École Estienne until his death. Grasset’s projects were realized by renowned professionals: the House of Vever for jewelry; the painter, glassmaker and mosaic artist Félix Gaudin for stained glass. In 1879, Gaudin had taken over a renowned glassmaking studio in Clermont-Ferrand – one of the first established in France – which produced civil and religious stained-glass windows and mosaics. The two artists developed a strong working partnership and friendship, producing stained-glass windows for the Sainte-Croix cathedral in Orléans and the Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
Jean-Paul Bouillon, Journal de l’Art Nouveau, Geneva, Skira, 1986.
Jean-François Luneau, “Félix Gaudin (1851-1930). Peintre verrier et mosaïste,” doctoral dissertation in art history, Université Clermont-Ferrand II, Blaise-Pascal, 1992.