VIENNA — Millions accept sat on one in Vienna’s cafes, and its glassy curves accept becoming it a abode amid the abstract of European design.
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More than a aeon afterwards it was aboriginal produced, the Thonet appliance company’s armchair No. 14, with its ablaze bentwood anatomy and its annular bench covered in hand-woven cane, is instantly recognizable. No. 14 and agnate models accept additionally had abounding uses, capacity offices and homes and actualization onstage with Liza Minnelli in the blur “Cabaret.”
The exhibition “Bentwood and Beyond,” through April 13 at the Building of Applied Arts in Vienna, shows how Thonet’s bentwood chairs ushered in a anarchy in architecture and afflicted appliance as we apperceive it. About 240 pieces in the show, from the actual to the contemporary, accommodate aboriginal Thonet chairs, replicas and designs aggressive by bentwood shapes.
In 19th-century Vienna, Thonet chairs challenged a longstanding attitude of adorned handmade appliance by application bargain abstracts and a aboveboard design.
Michael Thonet, a adept accessory from Germany, accustomed in the burghal in 1842. In Germany, he had experimented with copse angle application appearance strips and glue. But in Vienna he developed the abundant simpler address that brought him fame: a action to angle rods of solid beechwood, bleared them to accomplish them adjustable and again band them assimilate a cast to accord them the adapted shape.
Reducing the cardinal of genitalia helped acceleration up assembly while still carrying acceptable craftsmanship. And No. 14, accepted as “the three-guilder chair” for its price, brought the aggregation its better orders. But — as happened with the Mini, Britain’s accepted bargain car from the 1960s that became a architecture figure and is now awash at exceptional prices — Thonet chairs are no best a mass-market product, and now additionally appear in abstracts like tubular animate and plastic.
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Before he set up his own workshop, Michael Thonet’s aboriginal big activity in Vienna was on a refit of the baroque neo-Rococo interiors of a burghal alcazar endemic by Liechtenstein’s aristocratic family. The chairs he fabricated for the alcazar were ornate, affluence pieces. Their aerial carvings were, at aboriginal sight, a far cry from the simple curve of acclaimed Thonet models.
Yet beneath the ornaments, alike those aboriginal pieces showed signs of what was to come. “It was important for us to appearance how these models developed added for automated production,” Sebastian Hackenschmidt, the babysitter of “Bentwood and Beyond,” said on a contempo bout of the exhibition.
“Formally it’s already there,” he said, gesturing at a aphotic rosewood “Liechtenstein chair,” adipose in abysmal amethyst bolt with an busy floral motif, and again to Thonet’s armchair No. 3, which added resembles the archetypal coffee abode armchair — beneath fussy, with a simple accomplished of bentwood, and the backrest and bench covered in hand-woven cane.
This abridgement in complicated, labor-intensive adornment facilitated accumulation assembly and was the agent of Thonet’s characteristic style. Alike the annular appearance of the chair’s bench stemmed from rationalization: It was easier to accomplish and adhere to the blow of the structure.
To acknowledge to accretion demand, Thonet congenital factories abreast beechwood forests in today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia, as able-bodied as in Germany and Russia, establishing sales credibility about Europe and America and creating one of the aboriginal bunch appliance brands for a all-around market.
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To facilitate aircraft as far as South America, No. 14’s six genitalia were arranged into board crates lined with harbinger and accumulated at their destination with a scattering of screws.
Those architecture and administration techniques prefigured addition mass-market artefact a aeon later. In the 1960s, the Swedish aggregation IKEA reproduced a archetypal Thonet shape, armchair No. 18, a architecture agnate to the bistro model. Again in the 1980s, it created a adaptation fabricated of plastic, after the constraints of bentwood. That “Ogla” armchair became one of the company’s best-sellers and is still sold, flat-packed in agenda boxes, in its food worldwide.
Mr. Hackenschmidt, the curator, said that because Thonet’s banal chairs were so simple, few bodies accepted them aesthetically aback they were aboriginal produced in the 19th century. They were advised “an article for use,” he said. It was alone with the accession of Modernism in the 20th aeon that beat architects and designers saw their beauty.
Praise came from abstracts like Le Corbusier, the Swiss artist acclaimed for his anatomic use of accurate and writings about avant-garde design. “We accept conflicting the apprehensive Thonet armchair of aflame wood, absolutely the best accepted as able-bodied as the atomic cher of chairs,” he wrote of a archetypal that he included a 1925 architecture for a archetypal home. “And we accept that this chair, whose millions of assembly are acclimated on the Continent and in the two Americas, possesses nobility.”
In 1953, the Building of Avant-garde Art in New York became the aboriginal above building to appearance 13 of Thonet’s chairs, in an exhibition anniversary their addition to avant-garde design. As able-bodied as archetypal bentwood pieces, the appearance included chairs fabricated of tubular animate — a actual that, admitting actuality conflicting to Thonet’s aboriginal concept, the aggregation embraced, aggressive by Bauhaus designers.
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The Thonet appearance continues to absorb designers today. Naoto Fukasawa’s armchair No. 130, for instance, uses Thonet’s beech rods.
Another archetype on affectation at the Building of Applied Arts is a basal adaptation of the No. 14 by the British artist James Irvine, advised in 2007 for the Japanese affairs cast Muji and fabricated by Thonet in Germany. The archetypal added simplified Michael Thonet’s work, befitting alone the backrest and legs as able reminders of the aboriginal forms.
“These designs bethink the efficiency, the reduction, the rationality, of what the best bentwood pieces are all about,” Mr. Hackenschmidt said. “The No. 14 is of advance article that we will consistently appear aback to.”
Bentwood and BeyondThrough April 13 at the Building of Applied Art, Vienna; mak.at.
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