MAISON ROBJ (1908 - 1931)
"... Robj. Names also have a physiognomy. This one has short, fast, modern sounds. Furthermore, it contains something mysterious and magical. Robj, a magician..."
La Renaissance de l'art français et des industries de luxe, Paul Sentenac, 1927
Maison Robj is founded in 1908 by the entrepreneur Jean Born, who named it with an anagram taken from the letters of his own surname. Initially the company offers electric igniters, incense burners and various trinkets, without being especially successful. Following the accidental death of its creator in 1922, the firm is taken over by one of its shareholders, Lucien Willemetz. Under his leadership, the company positively turns towards modernity and adopts the style that will make it famous.
Lucien Willemetz quickly surrounds himself with a team of sculptors and ceramists. From 1927, he sponsored an annual competition of "art deco trinkets" as a means of discovering new designers. Its panel comprises famous artists (François Pompon, Maurice Dufrène, or Paul Landowski) but also influential people, such as the critic René Chavance. Rewards and Robj's reputation soon encourage many artists to present models to the firm. Most of the activity is devoted to the edition of useful trinkets (inkwells, bookends, lamps...) and the creation of new typologies (tobacco pots and liquor decanters). Usually anthropomorphic and coloured, those stylized objects are also humorous, which gives them an undeniable charm. Robj is not a manufacturer. His porcelain pieces are commissioned by various suppliers among them Manufacture de Sèvres, Villeroy & Boch in Septfontaines (Luxembourg) and several factories in Limoges. Those pieces are then delivered untreated to the decoration workshop of the firm located in Boulogne-Billancourt. The company is also part of a contemporary commercial approach. It offers catalogs to professionals, employs traveling salesmen and makes good use of the benefits of advertising by publishing attractive ads in newpapers : " Trinkets stamped Robj are the complement to any sophisticated interior, on sale in every sophisticated company". Moreover Lucien Willemetz has the idea of calling on the ensemblier René Herbst to arrange and stage his showrooms. The designer does not hesitate to use new materials, such as glass and metal, and deeply renovates the art of display, fitting Robj into modernity.
For nearly ten years, Robj's productions are both popular and critical success (bronze medal at the Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in 1925). However the firm is not able to survive the Crash of 1929 and disappears leaving for posterity about 600 referenced models.