Chair thumbnail 1
Chair thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery

Chair

1880-1883 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
According to a sale catalogue of 1883, this chair was originally intended for a drawing room or boudoir. It combines a simple form with an unusual arrangement of vertical and diagonal struts in the back. The chair is made of mahogany rather than a cheaper timber such as deal or pine, which were normally used for painted furniture.

People
Christopher Dresser was a very successful designer who was fascinated by Japanese art and culture. As Art Editor of 'The Furniture Gazette', he illustrated some of his own furniture designs, including this chair, in February 1880. The ebonised finish and structural simplicity of the chair show how he was influenced by Japanese designs.

Trading
The Art Furnishers' Alliance was founded by Christopher Dresser in 1880 to promote his designs directly to the public. This chair was part of the stock of co-ordinated house furnishings in the shop at 157 New Bond Street, London. Unfortunately, the Alliance closed in 1883, probably because of financial difficulties, and Chubb & Co., who made the furniture, advertised the remaining stock for sale in a catalogue.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Mahogany, ebonised and gilded
Brief Description
Ebonised mahogany chair, with simple incised and gilt decoration. Designed by Christopher Dresser and made by Chubb & Co for the Art Furnishers' Alliance. British, 1880-1883.
Physical Description
This chair of ebonised mahogany is very simple in form with the exception of an unusual arrangement of vertical and diagonal uprights in the back. It is simply decorated with incised and gilded rings and zigzags, mostly around the legs and the main back supports.
Dimensions
  • Height: 81.3cm
  • Width: 40.6cm
  • Depth: 45.8cm
  • Seat height: 41cm
4 approx Dimensions checked: Measured; 04/01/1999 by sf
Gallery Label
  • Christopher Dresser's design for this chair was originally published in The Furniture Gazette, February 21st, 1880 and it was part of a collection of furniture sold through the Art Furnishers' Alliance, founded in 1880 to promote Dresser's work. Apparently intended for a drawing room or boudoir, the chair epitomises Dresser's interest in Japanese design in its ebonised finish and belief in constructional honesty. After the closure of the Alliance in 1883 the sale catalogue of sock included an example of this chair which cost £1 13s.
  • British Galleries: Dresser's interest in Japanese design can be seen in the ebonised finish and unusual combination of vertical and diagonal uprights in the back of this chair. It was part of a collection of furniture sold through the Art Furnishers' Alliance, founded in 1880 to promote Dresser's work.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Designed by Christopher Dresser (born in Glasgow, 1834, died in Mulhouse, France, 1904); manufactured by Chubb & Co., London, for the Art Furnishers' Alliance



Historical significance: This is one of a very limited number of surviving pieces from the Art Furnishers' Alliance which can be identified from contemporary publications, from the sale catalogue and from a series of photographs in the Chubb archive.

The influence of Dresser's interest in Japanese design can be seen in this chair, particularly in the unusual combination of vertical and diagonal uprights in the back. It illustrates his belief in the minimum carving required for good decoration and his theories about honest construction, namely the use of straight sections for chair backs and legs. His criticism of curved legs and back supports was based upon the inherent weakness of the cross-grained timber necessary in this construction. However, he approved of small brackets uniting the seat to the back, as in this chair, since these added strength to the frame.

Typical of Dresser's furniture are the incised decoration and ebonised finish, which he used in other pieces designed for the Art Furnishers' Alliance. His choice of mahogany, although unusual considering it was to ebonised, may have been prompted by its inherent strength and the exotic connotations of its origin. The chair, strikingly modern in its pared-down structure and lack of ornamentation, is the simplest yet most complicated of designs, perfectly expressing Dresser's innovative and imaginative skill as a designer.

[Frances Collard in Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day, p.172]
Summary
Object Type
According to a sale catalogue of 1883, this chair was originally intended for a drawing room or boudoir. It combines a simple form with an unusual arrangement of vertical and diagonal struts in the back. The chair is made of mahogany rather than a cheaper timber such as deal or pine, which were normally used for painted furniture.

People
Christopher Dresser was a very successful designer who was fascinated by Japanese art and culture. As Art Editor of 'The Furniture Gazette', he illustrated some of his own furniture designs, including this chair, in February 1880. The ebonised finish and structural simplicity of the chair show how he was influenced by Japanese designs.

Trading
The Art Furnishers' Alliance was founded by Christopher Dresser in 1880 to promote his designs directly to the public. This chair was part of the stock of co-ordinated house furnishings in the shop at 157 New Bond Street, London. Unfortunately, the Alliance closed in 1883, probably because of financial difficulties, and Chubb & Co., who made the furniture, advertised the remaining stock for sale in a catalogue.
Bibliographic References
  • Whiteway, Michael (ed.), The Shock of the Old, Christopher Dresser's Design Revolution, New York, Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt in association with V&A Publications, 200427
  • Michael Barrington, 'The Arts & Crafts Movement, Origins & Ideals', in 'The Intelligent Layman's Book of British Furniture 1600-2000'. London, The Intelligent Layman Publisher Ltd, 2005, pp. 186-286, illus. p. 229
  • Miyajima, Hisao (ed.), British design at home : the Victoria & Albert Museum [英国のモダン・デザイン : インテリアにみる伝統と革新 : ヴィクトリア & アルバート美術館展 : Eikoku no modan dezain : interia ni miru dentō to kakushin : Vikutoria & Arubāto Bijutsukan ten], Ōsaka : NHK Kinki Media Puran, 199431
  • 'Recent acquisitions of furniture and woodwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum'. Burlington Magazine June 1993, vol. CXXXV, no. 1083, pp. 443-448. This item illustrated as item X.
Collection
Accession Number
W.35-1992

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record createdJuly 7, 1998
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