Best remembered for his bold and innovative Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs, Paul-Emile Brandt was a leading figure of the Art Moderne movement along with contemporaries such as Després and Templier.
Brandt was born in Chaux-Fonds, Switzerland in 1883 and moved to Paris at a young age. He studied with Chaplain and Allard where he received a comprehensive foundation in several disciplines including jewellery design, painting, sculpture, engraving, and enamelling. After a few years he decided to go into business on his own and in keeping with the current artistic trends in Paris at that time, he created jewellery in the Art Nouveau style. In 1906 he exhibited at the annual Expositions of ‘La Societe des Artistes Francais’ after which the Musée des Arts Décoratifs acquired several of his pieces for their permanent collection. He didn’t officially register his makers mark until October 22, 1912 at which point his premises is listed as 23 rue Victor-Chevreuil.
Along with the multiple skills he had acquired during his training Brandt began to experiment with different techniques such as engraving on gemstones. Amongst those he chose to set in jewellery was the beautifully carved oval moonstone depicting a reclining female figure and angel which he set within a three dimensional diamond and calibré-cut sapphire pleated surround. His showcase at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1923 invited guests to view “jewels, jewellery and engraved stones, precious stones, platinum and gold”. He participated in the International Exhibition of 1925 where he presented a collection of Art Deco style jewels he described as “jewellery of great design and great construction” which combined brilliant cut diamonds, platinum and gold with hardstones such as malachite and lapis lazuli. Towards the end of the 1920s he began to move towards a more modernist style and the beautiful gem-set jewels were joined by heavily geometric pieces in silver which were decorated with stark coloured enamels and a widespread use of eggshell lacquer. Circles and triangles were dominant motifs arranged in abstract compositions and these were used on accessories such as cigarette cases as well as jewellery.
Brandt accorded huge importance to the display of his jewellery and in 1927 he employed architect Eric Bagge to design and construct the window for his Salon, the style of which echoed the geometric forms of his jewellery. Like Jean Després and Raymond Templier, Brandt began experimenting with the effect of light and juxtaposing plaques of lapis lazuli or lacquer with transparent materials like rock crystal or diamonds. He also used delicate round pearls as a contrast to the regular lapis forms. During the early 1930s he created rings, pendants and bracelets that combined geometric figures with sections of work in relief. His final exhibition came in 1936 as subsequently he turned his attentions towards more industrial pursuits. He opened a tin factory in rue de Tlemcen which employed fifteen to twenty workers and which helped with the War effort between 1939 and 1945. Brandt died in Paris in 1952 and his factory closed the following year.