"Airline" armchair

MAKER:
Designer

Karl Emmanuel Martin (Kem) Weber ( American, 1889 - 1963 )


Manufacturer

Airline Chair Company ( American )

DATE:
c. 1934–1935
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General Description

Giving objects, even stationary ones, streamlined shapes was seen as a sign of progress and dynamism in the Depression years of the 1930s. Thanks to the emerging profession of industrial design and the need to enhance slumping sales figures, streamlined silhouettes were given to everything from buildings to buses and from cocktail shakers to vacuum cleaners. Furthermore, the modernity of these products was often enhanced through the use of new materials, including plywood, plastic, chromed steel, and aluminum. The end result was fashionable yet relatively inexpensive products that could be consumed on a mass scale and were not restricted to the wealthy upper class.

This chair's smooth lines suggests the image of speed, and its strut-like components further nod to its Airline namesake. Its form represents a superlative achievement in proclaiming Machine Age sensibilities by means of a traditional furniture material--wood. Echoing the earlier efforts of European designers Marcel Breuer, Alvar Aalto, and Gerald Summers, émigré designer Kem Weber’s transformation of laminated and pieced wood into a sophisticated cantilevered chair remains remarkable for its structural daring and clever knock-down construction. This particular chair was one of many that originally furnished one of Weber's important commissions of the 1930s, the new Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.

Adapted from

  • Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material, 2006
  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 262.
  • Charles Venable, Art Deco and Streamlined Modern Design, 1920-1950, label text 2006.42, 11/18/2001 to 5/20/2002

Fun Facts

  • In the late-1930s, Walt Disney commissioned Kem Weber to design the exterior and interior furnishings, including this "Airline" chair, for his new state-of the art animation studio in Burbank, California.

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