Chippendale side chair

MAKER:
Manufacturer

Knoll International ( American, 1938 )


Designer

Robert Venturi ( American, 1925 )

DATE:
designed 1984
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General Description

Robert Venturi's designs for Knoll International are widely regarded as among the most important decorative arts commissions of the Venturi firm to date. For Knoll, Venturi produced nine chair designs, three tables, one sofa, and two surface designs. Venturi was clearly thinking about these designs as early as June of 1976 when he executed a series of drawings for the Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Arts and Crafts models. Perhaps inspired by the Bicentennial of that year, Venturi turned to his copy of Wallace Nutting's Furniture Treasury, the Bible of colonial furniture collecting, to give him a reference for iconic colonial designs. The resulting concept would evolve over the next eight years before finally being put into production in 1984.

As one of his three original designs for this group, the Chippendale side chair is perhaps the most easily recognizable of the lot. The silhouette of the back follows loosely that of a mid-18th century Philadelphia side chair, though bulging in an exaggerated cartoon-like manner. The seat flows into the front legs in a thoroughly anti-historical treatment common to all the models in the series. Though also available with patterned Formica surfaces, this example in natural maple stays true to Venturi's original concept of laminated wooden finishes.

Venturi's work for Knoll embodies the architect's mimicry of historical ornament and form found so characteristically in his designs for buildings at the same time. As conscious leaders of a movement dubbed "Post Modern" by critics and peers, Robert Venturi and his partner Denise Scott Brown sought to expand their understanding of past and present by offering a new interpretations of traditional forms. As such, their work of the 1970s and 80s provides a necessary coda to Modernism and a bridge to a new century of design.

Adapted from

DMA unpublished material [2001.323], 2001.

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