Your currently viewing RAW Modern | Switch to RAW Contemporary

Colette Gueden (1905-2000)

Buste Féminin aux Deux Oiseaux, 1952

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn.

Colette Gueden, known as the “diva of Primavera,” was a leading figure in French interior design during the mid-20th century. From the outset of her career, Colette Gueden showed an ambition to be regarded as equal to men by referring to herself as a”decorateur” rather than the feminine equivalent of “decoratrice”. She gained prominence for her work at the Primavera design studio of the prestigious department store Printemps in Paris, where she started as a designer and later became the artistic director. Her eclecticism in the use of materials—horn, glass, ceramic, rhodoid—immediately places her within the history of modernism.

The artist’s 1952 piece, “Buste féminin aux deux oiseaux,” features a glazed ceramic female bust adorned with two birds. This work is significant in the artist’s output due to its exploration of “fantasy”. Gueden’s designs often embraced a playful aesthetic, marked by vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and whimsical details. She frequently incorporated natural motifs such as flora and fauna and animals such as birds and butterflies, infusing her creations with a surrealistic allure reminiscent of a dreamlike realm. Gueden often sets up signals, narratives, and signs in her creations as a way of establishing a real closeness with the collector; for example, this object is not static but invites manipulation and touch, allowing the collector to bring the Primavera atmosphere into their home.

A second example of “Buste féminin aux deux oiseaux” is displayed at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris.

Buste Féminin aux Deux Oiseaux
Signed. Glazed ceramic on an integral pedestal.
Gueden, Colette

Colette Gueden (1905-2000)

Colette Gueden was born in Indochina in 1905, and at the age of 18 began her studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Saint-Etienne. In 1927 she started working as a designer at Primavera, becoming Manager in 1934 and Artistic Director in 1938. Under her supervision, the Primavera workshop produced wallpapers, jewellery, ornaments and especially ceramics, known for their originality and modernist designs . In the mid-30s, Gueden created table services on the themes of 'Monuments of Paris' & the 'Coast of France' and in the 1940's she created a series of masks, busts and partially glazed female faces decorated with shells and wavy hair. Surrounding herself with a team of young designers, in the 50's organized small, themed fairs including "Plein Air", "Galot Spring" and "Alcove". She also made drawings for ceramics that were created by Pol Chambost and the workshops in Vallauris and Limoges. She also received prestigious commissions: she designed furniture for President Vincent Auriol, for the steamer La Marseillaise (1949), creating large bas-reliefs decorated with still lifes. She retired in 1972.