André Sornay

French, 1902 - 2000
ANDRE SORNAY (1902-2000)
French designer, decorator and furniture maker, Andre Sornay, was born and raised in Lyons, France. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts there and conducted his career there as well – to the extent that the French Art Deco movement in his hometown was known as “Le Style Sornay”. 
Sornay was born into a furniture-making family and when his father died in 1919, he was appointed head of the family’s furniture business. From 1920 he abandoned the historicist and ancient styles they produced in favor of his own simple, innovative and purist lines. Sornay was good friends with other avant-garde designers including Fancis Jourdain and Pierre Chareau and was inspired by their work. In 1923 he showed an ensemble in white sycamore at the 1923 Salon d’Automne.
In the late 1920s, Sornay devised the technique for which he became most recognized, cloutage, a method of studding the perimeter of veneered furniture panels with long lines of tiny brass nails. The technique, which he patented in 1933, added a minimalist decorative detail that became Sornay's signature. He began using cloutage on everything from cabinets to multitiered tables; the distinctive armchairs he made during this period marry angular bases, including arms that terminate in cantilevers, with simple rectangular backrests where a delicate border of nails frames the heavily grained wood.
Sornay continued to experiment with new manufacturing techniques in the following decades. In the 1940s he developed a system of using long metal or wood bolts to hold furniture panels together, allowing for quick assembly and disassembly. In time, Sornay ceded control of the company to his children, though he still acted as an adviser and draftsman. Production ceased in 1999; Sornay died a year later.
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