Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879 – 1933)
Ruhlmann was born in Paris, his parents had just moved there before his birth. His father ran a very successful business - Société Ruhlmann, which was in construction and interior decorating including painting and wallpapering. After Rulhmann had completed a few years study in painting and completed three years military service he then joined his fathers’ company and took the leadership role after his fathers’ death in 1907.
Ruhlmann first attempts at design were attributed to when he and his wife moved to their first apartment, this quickly gathered pace and he co-founded another company, focusing on interior designs with fellow designer Pierre Laurent and the company covered both his interests in furniture design and his love for wallpaper designs.
Ruhlmann early designs were heavily inspired by the popular Arts & Crafts movement, although he became very critical of this very movement. He was an outspoken man who made a bold statement to the effort that the design trends were made the by the rich, as they were the ones who could afford to steer the influence of fashion – this remark got him noticed and the rich and affluent folk were keen to have him be their designer of choice.
With this mindset, Ruhlmann would only use the best and most expensive materials, rosewood and ebony would be of the highest quality. He was a designer but would leave the actual making of the furniture to his team of experts. It could take many months to complete one piece and often he was not actually making much profit out of it! It was at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925 (where the term ‘Art Deco’ was formed) Ruhlmann had his own pavilion exhibiting his work which led him to worldwide acclaim.
Ruhlmann discovered he had a terminal illness and before his untimely death in 1933 he made plans to dissolve his company that he had built up over the last couple of decades to protect the name and reputation he had worked so hard to build.