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Jean Crotti papers, 1913-1973, bulk 1913-1961

Biographical Note

Jean Crotti (1870-1958) was a Dadist painter who worked primarily in Paris, France and New York. He was married to Suzanne Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp's sister, and friends with notable avant-garde and Dada European and American painters of the period. He is also known for creating the "Gemmail" technique of layering colored glass that produced unique color combinations when illuminated.
Jean Crotti was born April 24, 1878 in Bulle, near Fribourg, Switzerland, the son of a painting contractor. The family moved to Fribourg in 1887.
Beginning in 1898, Crotti struggled with questions of a religious and spiritual nature while at the School of Decorative Arts in Munich. Dissatisfied there, he moved to Paris in 1901, where he spent a year studying at the Acad?©mie Julian under Tony-Robert Fleury and Jules Lefebvre. Still dissatisfied in 1902, he established a small independent studio in the Rue Fontaine.
Crotti exhibited a canvas at the Salon des Ind?©pendants in 1907, and was accepted as a member of the Salon d'Automne in 1909. From 1910 to 1912, he was influenced by Cubism and its offshoot, Orphism.
To escape from wartime Paris in 1914, Crotti and his first wife, Yvonne Chastel, moved to New York City where Crotti had his first solo exhibition at the Bourgeois Gallery. In 1915, Crotti met Francis Picabia and also shared a studio with Marcel Duchamp who was a major influence. Crotti began his Dada period and was included in an exhibition of French paintings at the Montross Gallery in New York, with Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, and Jean Metzinger.
Crotti separated from his first wife, Yvonne Chastel, in 1916 and returned to Paris alone. By 1917, Crotti's marriage had dissolved and he married Suzanne Duchamp in 1919. Crotti met Suzanne Duchamp, also a painter, through his friendship with her brother Marcel Duchamp. During this time, Crotti completed and exhibited paintings associated with the Dada movement. One of his more notable works was entitled Explacatif, bearing the word "Tabu" that expressed Crotti's concepts of mystery and infinity with spiritual overtones.
In 1935 Crotti began to research a new technique using layers of colored glass, referred to as "gemmail." The term is a contraction of "gem" referring to the colored glass and "enamel" referring to the method of affixing the pieces of glass to each other. After much experimentation, an "enamel" fixative was found that would permanently hold the glass pieces in place while still allowing light to shine through all the layers. Several prominent artists including Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso became interested in using this medium. Crotti had the process patented, but in 1955 ceded the rights to Roger Malherbe who adapted it to commercial uses.
Jean Crotti died on January 30, 1958 in Paris, France.