The Joseph Savina L’avant-garde Bretonne exhibition opens on 8 February 2024 at the gallery’s Paris showroom. It celebrates the designer’s ‘folk art’ and his connection to modernist Brittany – the intersecting point for marine, Christian, Celtic, and 20th-century modernist traditions.
Savina was born into a family of cabinetmakers in Douarnenez in 1901. He worked alongside carpenter and sculptor Jean Le Picard until he opened his workshop on rue Saint-Andre in Tréguier. In 1929, he was named ‘French Craftsman of the Year’ for his intriguing version of Breton folk art. He eschewed the ‘decorative picturesqueness’ of traditional Breton production, preferring to highlight ‘clean construction lines’ inspired by the early modernist movement. This combination earned him the moniker the ‘wood embroiderer’.
Throughout the 1920s, Savina was involved with the ‘Seiz Breur’ (Seven Brothers) group of artists founded by Jeanne Malivel. Savina was drawn to the avant-garde movement’s rejection of local artistic conventions and advocacy for contemporary furniture design, which echoed his own sensibilities.
Among the items exhibited at Laffanour / Galerie Downtown Paris is a set of eight wooden chairs carved in 1950 with a Celtic-inspired circular motif and a wooden cabinet circa 1929-1931 decorated with triangular metal places. Savina produced stylised furniture carved with palmettes and volutes that reflected Seiz Breur’s vision of ‘decorative modernism’ – curated flourishes that highlight craftsmanship without detracting from the overall form of the furniture.
The centrepiece of the show is Savina’s abstract Ozon Opus sculpture, created in 1947 in a unique collaboration with Le Corbusier.
Savina struck up a friendship with Le Corbusier in 1935 and was quickly enamoured with the architect’s modernist ideas. The pair exchanged correspondence throughout the 30s and 40s. They collaborated on projects such as Le Corbusier’s masterpiece, the Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut in Ronchamp in 1953, where Savina designed the church doors, cross, benches and high altar for the modernist cathedral.
See highlights from the show in the gallery above.
Joseph Savina L’avant-garde bretonne runs until 2 March at Laffanour/ Galerie Downtown Paris, 18 rue de Seine, 75006 Paris