The Compagnie des Arts Français was an interior design and decoration company founded in 1919 by the architect Louis Süe (1875-1968) and the painter André Mare (1885-1932) at 116 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in Paris.
Both Louis Süe and André Mare had been involved in similar collaborations between interior designers and decorators with complementary talents before the First World War: Louis Süe with the Atelier français, a company publishing furniture and objects founded with Jacques Palyart in 1912, and André Mare with the Cubist House he showed at the Salon d’Automne the same year.
Convinced that modernism could be created via collaborative decoration projects - hence the name “compagnie” - they formed a team of artists and craftsmen with complementary skills, all interested in the decorative applications of their disciplines: the painters Paul Vera, Charles Dufresne, Gustave-Louis Jaulmes, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, André Dunoyer de Segonzac and Jean-Louis Boussingault, the craftsman in wrought iron Richard Desvallières, the sculptor Pierre Poisson, the painter and master glazier Maurice Marinot, and the draughtsman André Marty.
The aim of the Compagnie des Arts Français was to create “serious, logical, welcoming” ensembles incorporating every aspect of interior decoration (interior design, furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass, bronze, lighting and wallpaper). The company manufactured mass-produced objects and furnishings and also luxurious creations for a wealthy clientele, some of which were reproduced in the 1921 publication Architectures, intended as the Compagnie’s manifesto and for which Paul Valéry wrote Eupalinos or the Architect.
Louis Süe’s parallel activity as an architect brought the Compagnie des Arts français prestigious construction and decoration commissions from 1921 to 1927. It designed and furnished the French Embassy in Washington, the luxury cabins on the liner Paris and the first-class drawing room on the liner Ile-de-France. In Paris, it designed and decorated the shops of the jeweller Linzeler and the couturier Jean Patou. Louis Süe, a friend of Patou, also designed the interior his Paris mansion and the house of the actress Jane Renouardt at Saint Cloud, for which the Compagnie created the interior decoration.
The Compagnie’s major production of interior designs and objects for the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial in Paris in 1925 earned it international recognition. It had its own pavilion, the “Musée d’Art Contemporain” on the Esplanade des Invalides, but also participated in the furnishing and design of other pavilions, including the adjoining Fontaine pavilion, the “French Embassy,” the Parfums d’Orsay boutique, the “Salle des Fêtes” in the Grand Palais and the Pleyel stand.
Due to financial difficulties, this close collaboration ceased in 1927. The company was taken over by the principal shareholder of Galeries Lafayette, who wanted to add a prestigious subsidiary to the department store’s own decorative arts workshops. Jacques Adnet, appointed artistic director by Maurice Dufrêne, gave the company an avant-garde orientation, enlisting the talents of Charlotte Perriand, Djo-Bourgeois, Francis Jourdain and René Herbst. The entirely refurbished gallery was inaugurated on 10 October 1928. The invitation card, written by the poet Blaise Cendrars, proclaimed its new identity with a list of the seven wonders of the modern world:
1. The internal combustion engine,
2. The ball bearing,
3. The cut of a great tailor,
4. Satie’s music (which can be listened to without putting face in hands),
6. The bare nape of a woman who has just had her hair cut,
and this most recent novelty:
7. All modern furniture.