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Armchair designed by Gerrit Rietveld and made in Amsterdam, 1927
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Object statement
Armchair (beugelfauteuil) from the frame chair range (beugelstoel), with original receipt, plywood / steel / beechwood / paper, designed by Gerrit Rietveld, 1927, made by Metz and Co, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1932
Today it is hard to imagine that the now-ubiquitous tubular-steel style of furniture was once at the fore-front of modern design. In the mid 1920s tubular steel furniture had developed from purely utilitarian use in hospitals and transport to the domestic environment. Consequently, original examples of pre-WWII modernist furniture are rare - especially with the original receipt as is the case with this example.

This chair (beugelstoel or tube-framed chair) designed in 1927 by the Dutch architect and designer, Gerrit Rietveld is representative of the very earliest adoption of tubular steel, and unique in its early combination with wood not seen again until the furniture of Ray and Charles Eames after WWII. It follows directly on from the German tubular steel and fabric B3 (later Wassily) chair of Marcel Breuer (1925) and cantilevered chair of Mart Stam (1926). However, the proportions and form are distinctly Rietveld, and a functionalist interpretation of his celebrated 'De Stijl' wooden chairs such as the Red Blue chair, and 1919 armchair. Later versions of both these chairs are in the Powerhouse Museum's collection (Powerhouse Museum object numbers 85/1835 and 85/116).

In terms of their simple modernity, furniture incorporating tubular steel such as the beugelstoel echoed the philosophy of Walter Gropius (1883-1969), founder of the Bauhaus in Germany, when he stated that, 'metal furniture is to be nothing more than a necessary device for modern-day living' (Vitra 1994: 212). In 1927, the same year the beugelstoel was designed, Le Corbusier (1887-1965) proclaimed, 'A great epoch has begun. There exists a new spirit. There exists a mass of work conceived in this new spirit, it is to be met with particularly in industrial production . . .' Rietveld's beugelstoel fitted perfectly with the technological and aesthetic tenets of its time.

The beugelstoel attained much international attention when it was exhibited at events such as the 1928 ASB (architecture, painting and sculpture) exhibition in Amsterdam. Of particular interest was Rietveld's experimentation with a one-piece (seen so commonly on furniture today) plywood seat and back as well as the use of metal tubing in a way that maximised the material's potential rather than mimicked older styles of furniture (as seen in the four legs of the original Breuer B3 for example). The beugelstoel has often been omitted from the mainstream and conveniently linear story of modern furniture development, and suffered in its comparison with the De Stijl innovations and its intellectual socio-political aspirations. This prejudice can be clearly seen in Daniele Baroni's choice of words for the chapter in her 1978 book on Rietveld titled, 'Contamination with Metal: The use of curved metal tubing in furniture'. However, in more recent times this attitude is changing (eg. Fiell and Fiell 2005: 136-137) and the chair had its original share of admirers at its time of production. Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), Le Corbusier's collaborator was likely thinking about the beugelstoel when in 1929 she sanctioned the use of plywood as an ideal combination with metal, and Mart Stam, ordinarily a harsh critic (and designer of the first cantilever chair) praised the ingenuity of Rietveld's beugelstoel in his 1935 review of the exhibition 'The chair during the last 40 years' held that year at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (Voge 1993" 17-20). Recognition for the chair's attributes continued after the war. In the 1950s the armchair version of the beugelstoel was the acknowledged and direct inspiration for Verner Panton's 'Bachelor Chair' which was Panton's first of many commercial successes (Remmele 2000: 24).

So, while Rietveld is most celebrated for his early iconic De Stijl pieces such as the Red Blue Chair, his later furniture such as the beugelsteol of this acquisition are only recently being better appreciated. As one of the main commentators on Rietveld, Peter Vöge notes, "Like his later architectural works, Rietveld's later furniture is often dismissed because it attempts to achieve the 'normative' rather then striving for constant innovation. Yet even 'normative' pieces such as the Beugelstoel, or some of the furniture designs of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, retain some residue of Rietveld's characteristic 'peculiarity'. His furniture never looks quite like 'normal' furniture. Even when designed for multiple production and produced in quantity, there always seems something of the 'aura' of the hand-made in these pieces" (1993: 21).

Paul Donnelly, Curator Design, History and Society, December 2008.

References
Peter Vöge, 'The complete Rietveld furniture', 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 1993
Danielle Baroni, 'Gerrit Thomas Rietveld furniture', Academy Editions, London, 1978
Marian Page, 'Furniture Designed by Architects', London, 1980
Le Corbusier, 'Towards a New Architecture', London 1927
Droste, M.; Ludewig, M., 'Marcel Breuer', Bauhaus Archiv / Taschen, Cologne, 1992
100 Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection, Vitra, Weil am Rhine, 1994
'Dictionary of Design', Thames and Hudson, London, 1993 (2nd Edn 2004)
Fiell, Charlotte. and Peter, 'Design of the 20th Century', Taschen, Cologne, 1999
Fiell, Charlotte. and Peter, '1000 Chairs', Taschen, Cologne, 2005
Remmele, Mathias and Von Vegesack, Alexander, 'Verner Panton: The collected works', Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhine, 2000
'Chair design is a key issue to any designer. No other object is so intricately linked to [people] and [their] measurements . . . Rietveld found this so intriguing that he made use of every opportunity to design a chair that came his way' (Vöge 1993; 8).

The use of seamless steel tubing was patented in 1885 by Reinhard Mannesmann in Germany (Dictionary of Design 2001: 201-2). Aside from bicycle frames its use in furniture began as early as the 1890s with hospital furniture. By 1919 tubular steel was used in car seats by the Czech maker Tatra, and in 1924 by Fokker for airliner seats (Vitra 1994: 212). The bold step to making steel-tubing domestic furniture was first made by Marcel Breuer of the Bahaus in 1925 with his 'B3' club (later 'Wassily') armchair - two years prior to this Rietveld acquisition designed in 1927. Significantly in terms of debt to Rietveld, Breuer's B3 owed much in the position of seat and backrest to Reitvelds's famous Red and Blue Chair despite the B3's ground-breaking use of tubular steel. Very quickly, tubular steel furniture, 'technically cool but light, elegant and clear became the very symbol of modernism' (Droste et al. 1992: 4). Rietveld, whose famous 'De Stijl' wooden chairs up until 1925 had profoundly influenced Breuer and the Bauhaus, found himself in a cyclical round of inspiration both on, and by, the Bauhaus.

Rietveld approached the issue in a typically independent way. He took the concept further by designing the chair around the materials in a way that was totally independent of the conventional four-legged form. Rietveld also minimised structural components and removed the need for bracing by shaping the one-piece plywood seat through four angles to give rigidity. In this way the chair more closely resembles the lounges of Thonet and that company's embracing of steamed bent wood, as well as presaging Aalto's Paimio chair of 1930 where similar to Rietveld, a one-piece back and set of laminated wood is suspended between wooden 'ribbons' of wood instead of steel (although using bracing). The beugel chair also closely resembled his own 'De Stijl' chairs in proportions and sitter's position - most notably the Red and Blue chair. The term beugelstoel refers to a side framed chair but with arms can be called a beugelfauteuil (as in Baroni 1978: 116). Beugelstoel is used here as a more generic name representative of the series of chairs and their variants based on the tubular steel / plywood combination.

Significantly, the Rietveld beugelstoel was successfully designed to facilitate mass production, perhaps even more successfully than Mart Stam and Marcel Breuer's cantilevered chairs, and unlike other early icons of modern design such as Mies van de Rhoe's 'Barcelona Chair' or Le Corbusier's metal framed lounges which were technically difficult and thus expensive to produce. The beugelstoel range became the first of Rietveld's designs to be mass produced. Early versions were made in Rietveld's workshop (with his preferred choice of fibreboard which tears easily) but from 1930 it was put into production by Metz and Co using plywood. In the early 1930s Rietveld is recorded as ordering a quantity of plywood from Scandinavia which in all likelihood was used in the Powerhouse Museum example (Rietveld-Schroder House website). The chair in this acquisition comes with the original receipt from Metz and Co., Amsterdam, dated 29 July 1932.

Paul Donnelly, Curator Design, History and Society, December 2008.

References
Peter Vöge, 'The complete Rietveld furniture', 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 1993
Danielle Baroni, 'Gerrit Thomas Rietveld furniture', Academy Editions, London, 1978
Marian Page, 'Furniture Designed by Architects', London, 1980: 194
Le Corbusier, 'Towards a New Architecture', London 1927
Droste, M.; Ludewig, M., 'Marcel Breuer', Bauhaus Archiv / Taschen, Cologne, 1992
100 Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection, Vitra, Weil am Rhine, 1994
'Dictionary of Design', Thames and Hudson, London, 1993 (2nd Edn 2004)
Fiell, Charlotte. and Peter, 'Design of the 20th Century', Taschen, Cologne, 1999
Fiell, Charlotte. and Peter, '1000 Chairs', Taschen, Cologne, 2005
http://www.rietveldschroderhuis.nl/details.jsp?id=152 (Viewed January 2009)
Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) was an important Dutch architect and designer who was a founding member part of the 'De Stijl' design movement (1919-1931) of which the artist Piet Mondrian was also a high-profile adherent. In his career Rietveld designed over 350 pieces of furniture, around 100 buildings and was 'a key pioneer of the Modern Movement' (Fiell and Fiell 1999: 608).

After training as a cabinet maker in his father's workshop (1900-03), Rietveld qualified as a draftsman before setting up in 1917 his own workshop in Utrecht (Fiell 2000; 605). In 1918 he made his unpainted version of the Red Blue chair and then in 1919 Rietveld became one of the first members of 'De Stijl'. Rietveld's 'Schröder House' (finished 1925) in Utrecht is most emblematic of the 'De Stijl' movement and was put on the World Heritage list in 2000 as 'an important and unique icon in Western architectural history and a masterpiece of human creativity.' After the Schröder House was completed, Rietveld became associated with the 'Nieuwe Bouwen' (New Building) which was the Dutch equivalent to the 'International Style' (1920-1980) and his approach became more functionalist - a development clearly shown in the beugelstoel.

This example of the chair has been in the same family since 1932. The descendants of the original purchaser moved from the Netherlands to New Zealand and the chair is accompanied by the original receipt.

Fiell, Charlotte. and Peter, 'Design of the 20th Century', Taschen, Cologne, 1999
Marian Page, 'Furniture Designed by Architects', London, 1980

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Armchair (Beugelstoel) with pair of silver painted tubular steel frames shaped to form legs and also support the white painted / lacquered one-piece plywood seat and back with curved ends top and bottom to provide lateral bracing, attached to tubular frame with small nuts and bolts along edge, and pair of solid beech timber arms bolted into two points of frame.

Receipt from Metz and Co, Amsterdam, dated 29 July 1932, for eleven pieces of furniture including the beugelstoel ('Fauteuil Riteveld III'), to Mr F van Hattem.
Designed: Rietveld, Gerrit; The Netherlands; 1927

Made: Metz & Co; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; 1932
Marks
See parts
2009/22/1
Production date
1927

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Purchased 2009
Subjects
+ Furniture design
+ Bauhaus
+ Modernism
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{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/390938 |title=Armchair designed by Gerrit Rietveld and made in Amsterdam |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=27 July 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


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