Born Jules John Dunand in 1877 in Lancy, Switzerland, Jean Dunand found his spiritual home in Paris where he went in 1909 to expand the studies he had completed at L’École des Arts Industriels in Geneva where he obtained a diploma in sculpture and design. Encouraged by his friend the sculptor Jean Dampt, he strove for technical prowess in his artistic endeavors and, interested in the world of decorative arts, he used his summers in Switzerland to work in coppersmith workshop. This helped him hone the skills of Dinanderie, so called after the Belgian town Dinant which specialized in hand-crafted domestic and ecclesiastical metal objects during the 12-15th centuries. Indeed, his exemplary metalwork would remain one of his signatures and it also led him to another – superlative Oriental lacquerwork. Some Japanese metalwork was bought to Dunand’s atelier for restoration and he admired the protective and decorative coating, in an attempt to learn the process himself he invited French lacquer specialists to his atelier but was disappointed in their lack of knowledge.Seizo Sugawara had come to Paris from Japan in 1900, he was from a small village in Northern Japan called Johoji which was renowned for producing virtuoso lacquerware. He was only 18 when he arrived, but he went on to become an important member of the Parisian artistic scene and taught many artists his skills in the medium (Eileen Gray, the Irish-born designer, was also a student of his in Paris after she moved there in 1902). In 1912 Jean Dunand undertook two months of lessons from Sugawara, who was in turn interested in Dunand’s metalwork and an artistic exchange ensued. Dunand became one of the first western artists to really master the skill of Urushi (the Japanese name for the lacquer and the Rhus vernicifera tree from whose sap it’s made) and it would permeate his artistic voice for much of his most prolific and successful period – the 1920s and 1930s. Dunand would go on to experiment with many types of lacquer and create his own variations, becoming almost obsessed with the alchemy of this time-consuming (a smooth black lacquer surface can have up to 40 steps to it, which you then have to repeat on the reverse to avoid the wood from warping) and meticulous art. Jean Dunand’s most famous innovation was the use of eggshells in his lacquerwork, white being a difficult colour to master effectively, he used crushed eggshell to create large expanses and small fragments painstakingly arranged using tweezers for decorative elements. Both the concave and convex sides gave different effects. The concave leaving the white of the eggshell dominant, the convex allowing a pool of lacquer to form in the middle of the shape. This process became so popular that Dunand kept a chicken coop in the courtyard of his workshop to guarantee he never ran out of eggs. During his largest commissions, like that of the decorative panels for le ocean-liner the Normandie, he had up to one hundred employees working for him. He employed largely Indochinese craftsmen as they were already well-versed in lacquer and less susceptible to the allergies many Europeans experienced from Urushi. Dunand achieved great success in his lifetime, with help from his eldest son Bernard (a close collaborator from 1925 onwards) and his team of craftsmen, but also with many artistic collaborations. He worked with Paul Jouve, Jean Lambert-Rucki, Gustave Miklos, Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Pierre Legrain to name but a few and even with Mme Agnes the famous milliner and pivotal member of the 1930s revolutionary artistic scene, for whom he lacquered curled wood shavings to embellish her hats and of whom he made a beautiful portrait in 1926. Mme Agnes also introduced him to the fashion scene in Paris and this led to jewellery and other decorative items. His pieces were not only an essential for any avant-garde salon of the 1920s and 1930s (Mrs Solomon R. Guggenheim commissioned two large screens), any neck of the Parisian artistic elite (Josephine Baker famously photographed wearing her Jean Dunand jewels), but many museums also bought his pieces during his lifetime, the MET being one of his biggest supporters, as he travelled extensively in the United States as well as Europe. Jean Dunand died in Paris in 1942 at the age of 65.