Out of the ordinary and self-taught, combining the skills of a trained musician, architect, designer and sculptor with an addictive passion for equestrian sports, Schmitt has produced a most compelling oeuvre over the past 30 years. His workshop, set at the edge of the Fontainebleau forest is the hub where hundreds of models have been created, designed and shaped before being produced by France’s finest craftsmen.Schmitt’s work, widely exhibited in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, draws inspiration from the French tradition of decorative arts, the harmony of the late 20s and 30s (René Herbst, Pierre Chareau, Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Eugène Printz) with echoes of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Yet his approach to design remains resolutely contemporary with extraordinary shapes that puzzle and challenge perceptions. Deprived of ornamentation, his works present fluid forms that have been melted, carved or blown using solid materials such as bronze, alabaster, marble and Bohemian glass. They are subtly enhanced by patchworks of patinas, ranging from dark gold to marron glacé, charcoal grey and silver. The Stromboli pedestal table series (2012) in patinated bronze and blown Bohemian glass is a vivid example of Schmitt’s ability to combine materials and colours with incredible ingenuity.
Sometimes pairing noble and synthetic materials together – glass and steel, marble and Corian, slate and parchment, aluminium and steel – Schmitt grasps the full possibilities and constraints of materials, creating tensions through oppositions and visual imbalances through unusual proportions, as shown in the Sugegasa floor lamps (2013) and Cordouan floor lamps (2015). Schmitt’s musical background transpires in his work, continuously punctuated by rhythm, cadences and scales.Expressions of nature are omnipresent in Schmitt’s work, represented in different variations from the 1980s to today. His early design places a focus on line and vine-like detail, best exemplified in the stunning Osselet pieces (1996), a pair of low chairs combining an elegantly modelled bronze structure with a camel leather seat reminiscent of early Art Deco masterpieces. Transitioning into more curved solid forms from the 2000s Schmitt adopts an increasingly sculptural approach, flirting between functional design and art. An early example is the Jarre table (2002) with its imposing patinated bronze base and white Carrara marble top.
Appearing almost carved from one block the two parts meld together to create a functional sculpture with a clear contemporary look. In his most recent designs curves heavily dominate, vividly evoking natural forms and becoming a contrasting feature to geometric elements, as can be seen in Leaf Console (2013), a major exhibition highlight. Schmitt’s works are all edition pieces, limited series and one of a kind.Eric Schmitt is represented by Dutko Gallery in Paris and London, and Ralph Pucci in New York Miami and LA. He is currently working on major collaborations with Christian Liaigre.
Dutko Gallery (18 Davies Street, London W1K 3DR)This spring Dutko Gallery will present the first UK solo exhibition of French designer and sculptor Eric Schmitt.