MAX INGRAND

Max Ingrand (1908-1969) glass and stained-glass maker, designer, decorator

Born in Bressuire, France, Max Ingrand spent part of his youth in Chartres, where he was fascinated by the stained glass windows of its great cathedral. Studying in Paris at the School of Fine Arts, and then the School of Decorative Arts, he learned the art of stained glass from Jacques Grüber, a master glassmaker of his time. In 1931 Ingrand established his own workshop, where he experimented with glass, transparency, and light, notably with regard to stained glass. His technical and artistic mastery soon made him a significant figure in Art Deco, and he worked with major designers of the period such as Jules Leleu, and André Arbus. Among his important early commissions were the glass decorations for the luxurious Deco oceanliner, the Normandie, which launched 1932, and the Palais des Musées d'Art Moderne (now the Palais de Tokyo) in Paris, completed in 1937.

During World War II Ingrand was held captive in Germany, where he befriended Ivan Peychès, future Research Director of the French glassmaking company Saint-Gobain. After the War, Ingrand was fully engaged with reconstructing the windows of many damaged churches, including 43 stained glass windows for the Le Mans Cathedral at Nôtre Dame du Pré (1948-1952). Among his numerous other commissions were windows for the Château de Chenonceau (1954), and for the cathedrals of Quebec and Washington D.C. Throughout his stained glassworks, Ingrand integrated his love of medieval art together with a decidedly modern stylization, implementing radiant color to create an iconography that spoke equally to the universal and the contemporary.

Already one of the most renowned glassmakers of the postwar period, Ingrand’s ongoing research into glass and light inevitably led him to the design of light fixtures. In 1954 he became artistic director of the Italian lighting and design company Fontana Arte, then part of Saint- Gobain. Fontana Arte was reputed for commissioning some of the greatest designers of the time, including Gio Ponti and Pietro Chiesa. During Ingrand’s thirteen-year reign there, he designed a prodigious variety of lamps, sconces, chandeliers, vases, ashtrays, candlesticks, glassware, and tables. A number of his designs became classics, among the most famous of which is the Fontana table lamp, still in production today. With its illuminated white blown-glass globe and satinated shade, the minimalist design has become an archetypal lamp form.

Ingrand continued working on important projects through the 1950s and 60s. He designed the windows for the church of Saint-Pierre in Yvetot (1956), a stunningly modern round building boasting the largest stained-glass window surface in Europe. In 1961 he realized the glasswork for another modern church, Saint-Jean-Baptiste de la Rechèvres in Chartres, the hexagonal dome of which extends over continuous arcs of windows vividly colored with Ingrand’s abstract and symbolic forms. In total, Ingrand designed windows for over two hundred religious buildings in Europe, the U.S., and Brazil. His decorative projects also included many civic buildings,hotels, theaters, and private commissions. All the while, he kept creating forward-thinking, innovative pieces both in lighting and furniture design. Ivan Peychès wrote that Ingrand had effectively managed “the difficult synthesis of artistic and industrial responsibility." In 1967 Ingrand left Fontana Arte and founded his own company, Verre Lumière, which was among the first to produce halogen lamps.

Ingrand died in Paris in 1969, having been awarded the French Legion of Honor. Considered one of the greatest stained-glass artists of the 20th century, he has been hailed by other designers for his masterful skill, innovative use of materials, and superb production practices. His designs’ timeless, classic appeal renders them ever more collectible and valuable.

Exhibitions:

The Glass Museum of Pays Mélusin, Lusignan, 1996
100% Original Design Exhibition, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2014

Publication:

Max Ingrand, by Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier, Norma, 2009
Catalogue de l'exposition, Max Ingrand, Musée du vitrail de Curzay, 1996