Designer: Jean Dunand (French (born Switzerland), Lancy 1877–1942 Paris)
Date: ca. 1930
Medium: Lacquered wood, gold
Dimensions: Each panel measures 72 3/4 x 19 x 1 in. (184.8 x 48.3 x 2.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Chow, 2006
Accession Number: 2006.585
For centuries, Asian craftsmen had customarily applied coats of natural lacquer as a decorative and protective finish for their objects. In 1912 Dunand, fascinated by examples he had seen, learned the then closely guarded secrets of traditional Asian lacquering from Seizo Sugawara, a Japanese master living in Paris. Combining age-old techniques with contemporary forms and decorative designs, Dunand soon began producing stylish up-to-date furniture and decorative panels while experimenting with new ways of using lacquer, incorporating it into jewelry, textiles, and even society portraiture.
This spectacular screen is a tour-de-force of sumptuous restraint. The glimmering warmth of its monochromatic gold surface, appropriate to the solar imagery, typifies the French Art Deco approach to metallic finishes—luxurious rather than functional. While the rising-sun motif may have been used either in homage to his Japanese teacher or as a subtle reference to the Asian origins of his technique, the abstract simplicity of the composition shows Dunand at his best: elegant, lyrical, and thoroughly modern.