(1893 – after 1954)
Ref: BIJOUX ART DÉCO ET AVANT-GARDE, Laurence Mouillefarine, Évelyne Possémé, Éditions Norma, 2009
René Robert was born into a family of musicians, painters and interior designers, and was quite artistic. He played the violin, and also made sculptures and paintings, but he was especially drawn to jewelry. He studied for this first at l École national supéeior des arts décoratifs , and then at the Ecole Professionnelle de Bijouterie – Joaillerie – Orfèverie in the rue du Louvre in Paris. He became one of the “pioneers” of jewelry design, such as Raymond Templier and Jean Despres, who wanted to break with the traditional haute joaillerie and create truly modern designs. The artistic quality of a piece was of much greater importance that the monetary value of the materials. His preferred materials were rare wood, silver, ivory, coral, onyx, enamel and lacquer.
In 1912 and 1913, he showed his work for the first time at the Salons des artists français. These early works were in the Art Nouveau style.
In 1921, he registered his trade name Fabrication bijouterie d’art. By this time, his style had evolved to the newly emerging geometry that would be the defining characteristic of Art Deco style.
At the Exposition international des arts decoratifs in 1925, he showed a selection of bracelets incorporation jade, coral, ivory and onyx – stones favored by many designers for their strong colors made popular by the Ballets Russes , and also because these opaque stones could be carved into geometric shapes, adding a dramatic color element to the now popular white and black jewelry. He was awarded a Gold Medal for his pieces.
Robert was soon experimenting with enamel on silver, and two years later, he showed pieces using lacquer at the Salon d’autumn. In 1929 and 1930, at the salon des artists français, he showed jewelry made from rare woods embellished with lacquer. He particularly liked the combination of ebony with ivory or coral.
By 1930, Robert was making objects as well as jewelry. He favored curved and bombé forms and lightly hammered surfaces, and he had developed his own very distinctive style. His jewelry designs evolved with the changing esthetics of the 1930 towards more curved and less geometric designs, while still using simple, harmonious forms, such as spheres, cylinders, balls, and pearls in rows. He also began making jewels in platinum, with black lacquer, calibré-cut hardstones such as aquamarines, and with small diamonds for contrast.
Robert’s participation in the Exposition de 1937 earned him a diplôme d’honneur, and the City of Paris acquired several of his pieces. in 1941, Robert participated in l’exposition d’art decoratif contemporaine, organized by le musée des Arts décoratifs with other jewelers of the modern movement who were now famous and recognized as the “pioneers” of modern style, among them Raymond Templier , Jean Despres, Jean Fouquet, Sandoz, Paul Brandt, Paul Bablet and André Rivaud.
Like the other “pioneers”, he strongly felt that a piece of jewelry should be unique, and compliment the personality of the wearer. He was a keen observer, and often worked on a jewel in collaboration with the client to find the best dimensions and lines to suit her style and appearance. He felt that having a fine piece of jewelry designed specially for a woman was one of the greatest luxuries – it should not only be unique, but also “made to measure” to suit and flatter the individual face or hand.
René Robert enjoyed renown and great success with his very distinctive jewelry, and continued to exhibit his jewelry until 1957.