February 26: bada-Bing!

2016/02/26 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1838 Siegfried Bing was born.

Bing was not an artist, designer, nor architect.  But his influence in a particularly delicious era of design history was profound. Born in Germany, he moved to France to work in his extended family’s ceramics business.   After inheriting the business, he expanded its operations in international trade, especially to and from Japan.  The imported goods helped to fuel the interest in woodblock prints, cloisonné enamelslacquerware, and porcelain.  Bing operated shops that specialized in quenching the French public’s thirst for the new craze they called Japonisme, and heightened interest  in Japanese aesthetics among an even wider circle by publishing a monthly journal, Le Japon Artistique, starting in 1888.  Not only were average artsy Parisians excited by the new aesthetic.  Painters like Van Gogh collected the prints, copied them, and  claimed that all Impressionists were influenced by the work.  In Vienna, Gustv Klimt subscribed to the magazine, in whose pages he too saw something new and worthy of emulation.

But wait, there’s more!  The day after Christmas in 1895, Bing gave his greatest gift to the world of art when he opened a gallery at 22 rue de Provence.  It was ground zero for the movement that would draw its name from the gallery, Maison de l’Art Nouveau.  The gallery interiors were designed by Henry van de Velde and featured windows fabricated by Louis Comfort Tiffany based on the designs of Nabi artists ike Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  Bing dealt in Morris fabrics, Tiffay glassware, Rookwood Pottery, Grueby Faience.  He stocked jewelry, paintings, ceramics, glass and furniture by the likes of William BensonLouis BonnierEdward ColonnaGeorges de FeureEugene Gaillard, and Edouard Vuillard.  Holy whiplash!

Bing’s work for the Exposition Universelle in 1900 sealed his name as the Chef de cuisine of all things Art Nouveau, but it was also a swan song of sorts.  He closed the shop in 1904 and died the following year. Less than a half-decade later Le Figaro would see fit to publish the first screed of Futurism, and you know what happened after that.

Image: the interior of M. Bing’s shop, L’art nouveau at 22, rue de Provence, Paris.  “Installations modernes, ameublements, objets d’art, peintures, bijoux d’art.”

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You are currently reading February 26: bada-Bing! at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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