Born in 1906, the daughter of a prominent French sculptor and designer Jules Leleu, Paule Leleu is commonly associated with Art Deco style. Art Deco design style originated in France before World War I, and began to be popular internationally in the 1920-1940s. It can be characterized as eclectic, comprising of traditional craft motifs and Machine Age imagery.
While thinking about Art Deco, bold geometric shapes, rich colors and opulent decoration are the typical images that appear in our minds. Prestige, luxury, ardor and the faith in technological progress were Art Deco ideals.
The zest for designing had always been present in the Leleu’s family. After inheriting their father’s painting business, Jules Leleu, together with his brother Marcel Leleu, established an interior design department. It became one of the most influential furniture studios of the times, known for significant commissions e.g. from the United Nations headquarters in Geneva or French embassies. In 1936, Paule Leleu took over the position of the chief rug designer at her father’s firm, after Da Siva Bruhns left.
‘From an aesthetic point of view, the designer carpet of the thirties is the total antithesis of those of a few years previously. The pendulum swings wildly from patterns featuring an austere range of linear motifs, often sparsely scattered on a plain field, to deliberate incursions into the neo-baroque or combinations of the two’. At the 1925 Exhibition, a graphic linear style of drawing first appeared and within a couple of years it slightly changed, becoming more minimalistic – some undulating lines with repeating circles and spring-like motifs. During 1930s, Paule Leleu, and other designers, including Alfred Porteneuve, Paul Follot, Pierre-Paul Montagnac and Da Silva Bruhns used these decorative devices.
In her career, Paule Leleu designed over 500 carpets. Her rugs feature symmetrical arrangements and repeating geometrical patterns, often with diamond or linear motifs. From 1940, she started to design circular compositions with geometric and floral diaper patterns on them.