François Linke – The Master’s Story

After travelling to Prague, Budapest and Weimar, Linke came to Paris to work with a German cabinet maker. Photographs, location and stylistic resemblances suggest it was Emmanuel Zwiener, a leading furniture maker with a thriving studio in Paris. Following some time in Pankraz, Linke finally settled in Paris in 1877. The great Internation Exhibition took place in Paris in 1878 and was a resounding success for a city devastated by war only seven years earlier. Linke’s own workshops were active in Faubourg St. Antoine from 1881, supplying pieces for such established makers as Krieger and Jansen.

In 1889, Paris hosted the World’s Fair, announcing to the world France’s prosperous and confident outlook on the future. The iconic Eiffel Tower, erected as the exhibition’s symbol, became the iconic landmark of Paris. Inspired by these triumphant events, François Linke resolved to make a mark at the next exhibition, decreed to take place at the end of the 19th century.

Victor Champier, one of the 1900 Paris Fair’s commissioners issued an appeal, ‘Create in the manner of the masters, do not copy what they have made’. In response to this call against mere reproduction, Linke produced a formidable collection of original pieces that included the renowned Grand Bureau. While his competitors resorted to the historicist rendition of Louis XV and XVl styles, Linke teamed up with the incredibly talented sculptor and designer Léon Messagé to develop a completely new approach. While celebrating Louis XV’s rococo and its fluidity, it took a bold step forward with the vibrant flowing lines of progressive contemporary ‘art nouveau’.

The Art Journal reported in 1900 on Linke’s stand:
‘The work of M. Linke … was an example of what can be done by seeking inspiration amongst the classic examples of Louis XV and XVI without in any great sense copying these great works. M. Linke’s work was original in the true sense of the word, and as such commended itself to the intelligent seeker after the really artistic things of the Exhibition. Wonderful talent was employed in producing the magnificent pieces of furniture displayed’.

The ‘Revue’ described Linke’s style as ‘entirely new’ and noted that his 1900 World Fair stand was the greatest success in the history of art furniture.

It is worth noting that Linke took an enormous risk producing such extravagant and highly priced furniture without a potential buyer or commission in mind. At a time when such established furniture houses as Beurdeley and Dasson were closing down, Linke chose to move his business forward by appealing to the international clientele of the newly emerging rich. He invested everything he had in the expensive stand and the furniture he made. Had he failed, he would have become bankrupt, but the daring gamble paid off and his star had shone brightly ever since. Prominent visitors who flocked to his stand included the King of Sweden, King of Belgium, the Prince d’Arenberg, the American heiress Miss Anna May Gould and the President of France Emile Loubet.

Following the exhibition, La Maison Linke became the dominant furniture house leading the way for artistic change and artisanal excellence. François Linke’s showrooms opened in the prestigious Place Vendôme and Faubourg St. Antoine. Among the numerous furniture commissions he fulfilled, the most noteworthy was the extraordinary assignment to furnish King Fuad’s of Egypt Ras al-Tin Palace in Alexandria, the largest undertaking of its kind surpassing even Versailles. The master cabinet maker continued his fruitful work until the mid-1930’s and passed away in 1946.

We are proud to have some of François Linke’s inimitable furniture pieces in our collection. View them online or visit our showroom in Brighton – we’d be delighted to give you a tour tailored to your interests.