He is one of the most highly reputed design artists of the 20th century. His severe style, always evades dullness. It approaches more the style of Ruhlmann than the lyricism of Sue and Mare or of Andre Groult.
Being inspired by traditional styles, Leleu simplifies forms and profoundly modifies decorations. His furniture, in the spirit of Louis XV, denotes a bias of sobriety and at the same time a taste for refined, fairly feminine ornamentation.
The volumes are well-balanced, the lines taut, strictly elegant. Some models rest on feet that are similar to those of which Ruhlmann was fond.
By the end of the 1920s, with the evolution of more rigid, more massive forms, Leleu stayed faithful to his principles. Precious woods, chosen with care, are applied as united veneers or are arranged in geometric compositions. Galuchat (shagreen) and tortoiseshell are also used, but with great mastery.
The era of cruise ships, for which Leleu would receive many orders, began in 1926 with the furnishing of the reading room aboard the l’IIle-de-France. In 1931, he decorated a luxury apartment on the Atlantique cruise ship, and in 1935, the luxury apartment Trouville on the Normandy.
Leleu’s works bear his signature, “J. Leleu”, in a hallmark, then on an ivory plaque, and in the 1950s, on an adhered label. After his death, his son Andre took over the management of the company which he kept in business until 1973.
Cf. P. KJELLBERG, Art Déco, Les maîtres du mobilier, Le décor des paquebots, Ed. de l’Amateur, Paris, 2000, p. 152 à 158.