Siegfried Bing

Siegfried Bing, 1838 – 1905, French, born in Hamburg, died in Vaucresson, France

Siegfried (‘ Samuel ‘) Bing was an art dealer, critic and patron, was of German birth. He came from a wealthy Hamburg family. His father was an industrial decorator of ceramics. His son Marcel Bing was a talented Art Nouveau jeweller.


Bing was a specialist in oriental art and Art nouveau. He trained firstly under his father and then in Paris. After the Franco-Prussian War, he established an Oriental trading business, primarily of Japanese arts. This was a great success and Bing opened an Oriental crafts shop in Paris in the late 1870 s. Following a trip to Japan, he expanded the business in the 1880 s, selling both contemporary and ancient Japanese objects. At the end of the 1880 s, Bing founded a monthly periodical, Le Japon artistique and organized a series of exhibitions of rare Japanese art, featuring ceramics and ukiyoe prints. He became one of the main collectors of Japanese ceramics and prints.

In 1894 Bing was commissioned by the French government to produce a report on the state of American art (La Culture artistique en Amerique, Paris, 1896). In December 1895 he reopened his Paris gallery as the first Salon of International Art Nouveau, exhibiting works by the Belgian artists Henry Van de Velde and Georges Lemmen, as well as stained glass from Edouard Vuillard, Paul Ranson, Pierre Bonnard, Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Felix Vallotton and Toulouse-Lautrec, which was executed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in America. The exhibition was extremely controversial and was criticised by the press.

In his gallery, Bing also sold fabrics and wallpapers by William Morris, silks from Liberty & Co. in London, and metalwork by the English Arts and Crafts designer W. A. S. Benson. He also sold a number of works by Whistler. In May 1897 Bing bought Green and Gold: The Sloop (YMSM 368) for — 200. Whistler wrote to Bing in May of this year saying that he had signed the work as requested by Bing ‘s client. He asked the buyer ‘s identity and whether the work could be made available for future exhibition. At this time Bing also bought a number of lithographs and etchings from Whistler. At some point in the late 1890 s Whistler wrote Bing a letter of introduction to the collector Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston.

In 1899, Bing exhibited examples of his own studio ‘s jewellery in the Grafton Galleries, London. This exhibition was badly received by press and public. He opened his own pavilion, Art Nouveau Bing, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. A major sale of Bing’s private Oriental art collection was held in 1906 in Paris.

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