The spirit of collaboration was alive in the age of Art Deco. No duo quite exemplified this ideal more than the one known as Süe et Mare. Taking their knowledge of fine art and their shared experiences in the war with them, Louis Süe and André Mare were able to shape trends in the shift from Art Nouveau to Art Deco and beyond. Their designs, inspired by Cubism, excited the Paris Salon of the time and remain relevant even today.
Louis Süe was born in Bordeaux in 1875 to a wine merchant and his wife. Drawn to the arts, Süe abandoned a path which would have led him into the École Polytechnique to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in 1893. There he studied painting as well as architecture design, and in 1902 was able to exhibit with a number of his contemporaries in the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne. After working in various Parisian artists’ workshops and spending time in Vienna (where he was introduced to Cubism), Süe joined L’Atelier Français, an interior design firm made up of a number of his contemporaries, and where he first met André Mare.
André Mare was born in the Norman town of Argentan in 1885. Feeling stifled by his conventional upbringing, he left in 1904 to enroll in the École des Arts Decoratifs. In 1906, Mare also exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne, showing his furniture design and setting himself apart as a leader among his cohort. In 1912, along with Marcel Duchamp and others (and concurrent to his involvement with L’Atelier Français) Mare created La Maison Cubiste, a section at that year’s Salon d’Automne dedicated to radical interior design.
The outbreak of the First World War briefly interrupted the two men’s collaboration. Süe was drafted into the French Army and served in the Greek campaign. Mare, meanwhile, developed new camouflage techniques for the French, British, and Italian armies using his knowledge of Cubism. But this function did not keep him from the front. In 1916, he was wounded by shrapnel in Picardy while helping establish a lookout post, and in the same year was awarded the Military Cross by George V of England.
In 1919, Süe and Mare resumed their professional relationship by cooperating with Gustave Jaulmes on designing the victory celebrations in Paris for the war’s end. The next year the pair founded the Compagnie des arts français, focusing on creating designs for furnishings and interior accessories. While adhering to the Art Deco style, their designs were more conventional, harking back to the Louis XIV and earlier periods, and less focused on geometric intricacy. Highly decorative, their pieces featured flair such as sculpted floral and fruit motifs, scalloped edges, and inlays of ivory and mother of pearl.
Working primarily as decorators and furniture designers, Süe and Mare did find time to continue participating in exhibitions, particularly the 1925 Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, where they constructed an actual museum of contemporary art. Other projects included the booth for the Ambassade de France and the interiors of the steamship SS Île de France. They also designed bottles for the perfumery D’Orsay.
After their financial partner Gaston Monteux sold the Compagnie to the Galeries Lafayette department store in 1928, Süe and Mare ended up leaving the firm due to creative disagreements with Jacques Adnet, hired by the new owners. Süe continued performing private decorating projects for clients such as Jean Patou and Helena Rubenstein. He was also active in the Sociéte des artistes décorateurs and designed the French booth for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. During the Second World War, Süe lived in Istanbul and taught at the Institute of Fine Arts there. He died a chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in 1968.
Mare went back to his original artistic pursuit of painting after departing the Compagnie. His war experiences never left him, however. He died in 1932 of tuberculosis due to lasting effects of mustard gas poisoning. Sharing the honor with his friend Süe, Mare also was a chevalier of the Légion, having been inducted in 1926.
The work of these two designers remains relevant today. While their designs were acquired in their own lifetimes by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, currently they are also represented in institutions as esteemed as the Cooper Hewitt and the Musée des Art Decoratifs. In addition, there is still a vibrant private market for their output.