There is a lot of debate around whether perfume can be considered an art form. As a luxury fragrance brand, we look at the facts and tell you what we think.
The Tim Walker exhibition at the V&A Museum in London is a journey from fairyland to fashion shoot, medieval church to chiseled nude gallery. It is a feast for the senses with its riot of colour and miscellany of art. We have come a long way from the days when it was believed that photography was unable to ‘elevate the imagination’ because it was too literal (a charge levelled during an early meeting of the Photographic Society of London in 1853).
The definition of art is: ‘The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination … producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’. There is no doubt that the Walker exhibition, that was three years in the making, has produced work of great beauty and deep emotional power.
'In our opinion, perfume can be art.'
What about perfumery?
The debate still rages around whether perfume is art. If we travel back to the 1800s, in the years before the Industrial Revolution, perfume and art was inextricably linked. Young Edouard Pinaud was born into a family of craftspeople and had a nose for scent from a very young age. He was a contemporary of the famous Aime Guerlain, who created the well-known and loved Jicky perfume. Pinaud was driven by a desire to capture images and memories through scent. ‘…perfumes are really the most delicate beholders of our past life,’ he wrote in his 1860 memoirs. At the age of 20, Pinaud was the owner of “A la Corbeille Fleurie”, a perfume shop in the centre of Paris. Here, he created perfume as poetry, it was rich, floral and expressive. His shop became the inspiration for poet and novelist, Albert Leffingwell, who wrote Toujours de l'avant, a history of the iconic perfumery, full of rich watercolour illustrations by Will Hollingsworth. Here we see the collaboration of perfumer, poet and painter. It was said about Pinaud’s work that: ‘…the flowers he was distilling into the stills were for him love words that he linked one to another to give birth to a perfume brimming with poetry and tender feelings’. Here is human creative skill at its finest.
A Multi-million Dollar Art Form
The Industrial Revolution gave rise to a new age of perfumery where extraction processes were perfected and a perfumer’s palette was expanded to include a wide range of materials. The creative potential of perfumery blossomed and it soon became what Roja Dove describes as, ‘a multi-million dollar art form’ (The Essence of Perfume).
The training undertaken by perfumers before they bring creative works of scent to fruition is extensive. Many perfumers have a background in the sciences. An understanding of chemistry is essential when working with different materials to develop a scent. Perfumers undertake years of intensive training through internships or degree programmes in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the materials with which they are working.
STORIES by Eliza Grace celebrates perfume as art. The human creative skill is a fusion of Creative Director & Founder, Tonya Kidd-Beggs’ imagination and the ability of her perfumer to balance her selection. Tonya distills story and memory into individual notes that are then blended into vibrant compositions. The intention is to find the essence of emotion and invite wearers to connect with the complex layers of their own story. It is perfume as an invitation to experience something universal yet deeply personal. In our opinion, perfume can be art. What do you think?
Have you read the stories behind Fragrance No. 01 and No. 02?