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Bookbinder of the Month | Rose Adler

This week’s post is a bit last minute, though an important subject nonetheless!  Rather than try to write my own biography of Rose Adler, an extremely talented and inspiring Art Deco Bookbinder, I have posted below a detailed and well-written biography from the Willy Huybrechts archive.  You can read the original version here, as well as find other fascinating articles.  My favorite part about this article is the focus on Adler as a colorist who followed her creative instinct and who had a distinct and powerful connection to color.  This is not something we often think of when it comes to bookbinding, and is why I find Rose Adler to be such a unique inspiration.

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Rose Adler was born on September 23, 1892. In 1917, she was admitted to l’École d’Art décoratif headed by André Legrand and located on rue Beethoven.  While she remained at the Ecole until 1925, she foresaw the need to become thoroughly acquainted with the gilder’s craft and took lessons from the remarkable technician Noulhac.

Her first bindings, partially made under the supervision of this master, already displayed her extremely free sense of colors and materials.  Exhibited at the École, they were acquired by bibliophiles who became Adler’s regular customers; noteworthy among them, Paul Hebert.  In 1923, Jacques Doucet bought three of Adler’s bindings at a new exhibition of the École held at the Pavillon de Marsan: it was thus that Adler began relations with the patron for whom she would work until her death.

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Suzanne et le Pacifique (1930)

Rose Adler exhibited at the Salons des Artistes Décorateurs starting in 1924 until leaving it in 1929 to join the UAM.  She participated in the International Book Exhibition at the Petit Palais in 1931, the Chareau Cournault Gamla Group in 1934, the International Exhibition of 1937, followed by exhibitions in San Francisco in 1939, and in New York 1949.

Founding member of the Society of Original Book Binding, she took part in its exhibitions at the Bibliotheque National (French National Library) in 1947 and 1953 and in Lyon in 1949. The Bibliotheque Nationale acquired one of her bindings in 1932 followed by a purchase made by the city of Paris in 1934.  Rose Adler’s works can also be found in French, English and American bibliophile collections, the New York Library, the Museum of Modern Art Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  She became knight of the Legion of Honor in 1951.

Since the day Jacques Doucet noticed her bindings and entrusted her not only with his books but the realization of objects based on his ideas, Adler was under the influence of this man of extremely refined tastes.  She was also influenced by the innovator in binding, Pierre Legrain, who was himself inspired by Doucet who was then seeking modern bindings for the books of contemporary writers and poets.

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Chéri (1920)

Despite having been an excellent technician, Rose Adler subsequently left the trade, content to draw Doucet’s bindings.  By then, she had acquired all the experience that a designer could demand of a “gilder.”  Knowing her designs were feasible, she invented material details of a precious, feminine delicacy.  Rose Adler lived and worked in a literary, artistic, avant-garde milieu that suited her tastes and included many of her friends. But despite her enthusiastic reception of these influences, she succeeded in preserving her own character.

She constructed and organized a book’s décor with architectural logic and rigor while simultaneously endowing her designs with a sensitivity and grace never spoiled by sentimentality.  If her inexhaustible imagination inspired her to employ the most varied materials, including all leathers, suede, parchment, cork, amphibian skins, wood, ivory, etc …, her creative imagination remained dominated by her gift as a colorist.

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L’Envers du Music Hall (1926)

Rose Adler felt the expressive power of color with intense emotion: she opposed, associated or harmonized with great taste and boldness.   Involved from the very beginning in the renovation of binding, but nonetheless faithful to her basic principles, Adler continued her research in this spirit.  Indeed, the remarkable unity of her work ranks her among the masters of contemporary bookbinding.

Compiled and introduced by Alexandra Jane Williams, Volunteer Coordinator