Paul Iribe (1883-1935)
Paul Iribe was born in Angouleme in 1813 as Paul Iribarnegaray – a name that he quite understandably contracted to Iribe. He was trained as a commercial artist, and became famous as a caricaturist for a range of famous Parisian journals.
Iribe was recognized as the precursor of the “pure” Art Deco style – Ruhlmann, Süe et Mare, and Groult all readily acknowledged his influence. Sadly, Iribe’s creativity was confined largely to four short years, from 1910-1914. His fame appears, in retrospect, to match that of Colonna: a brief, meteoric burst of brilliance followed by years of obscurity.
At some stage in the early 1900s, Iribe developed the related skills of interior decorating, no doubt with the encouragement of famed couturier Paul Poiret, for whom he designed a range of jewelry, fabrics, wallpapers, and furniture. It was another couturier, however, who sealed his fame as a furniture designer: Jacques Doucet.
Doucet decided in, 1912, to offer his collection of eighteenth-century furniture at auction, and commissioned Iribe to furnish his new apartment at 46 avenue du Bois (now the avenue Foch). With his young assistant Pierre Legrain, soon to become quite famous in his own right, Iribe designed a marvelous range of modern furniture. Three pieces – two bergères and a commode – were donated subsequently to the Musee des Arts Decoartifs in Paris. Another pair of bergères, bearing the broad, circular, snail-like, spiraled armrests which characterized his most spectacular work, were included in the highly important sale of Doucet’s collection at the Hôtel Drouot in 1972.
Iribe’s style provided elegance in a quite unprecedented manner. Whereas a Louis XV flamboyance is evident in the fluid design, the discipline is distinctly 1800. There is also a pleasing touch of femininity and comfort. Preferred woods were zebra wood, with its distinctive grain, macassar ebony, and mahogany. A favorite stylized motif was the rose, later to become the celebrated “rose Iribe”, a symbol of high Art Deco, despite its prewar conception.
In the winter of 1914, perhaps spurred by the outbreak of war, Iribe set sail for the United States for what became a sixteen-year sojourn. He settled in Hollywood, designing giant stage sets for Cecil B. de Mille. In 1930, at the age of forty-seven, he returned to France, where he took a studio at 4 avenue Rodin. He designed jewelry for Coco Chanel until his death in 1935.
Alastair Duncan Rinehart and Winston: 1984),101., “Paul Iribe” Art Deco Furniture: The French Designers (New York: Holt,