Armchair thumbnail 1
Armchair thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery

Armchair

1918 (designed), ca. 1920 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

The popular name for this piece is the ‘Red Blue Chair’. This design is now identified with the geometrical style and primary colours used by the influential Dutch De Stijl movement. However, Gerrit Rietveld, who designed it, did not begin to produce the famous painted versions until 1923. The original design and several early versions, such as this one, were simply stained. The geometric design and simple construction of the chair grew out of Rietveld’s search for new forms. He also drew on the simple geometric furniture designed by the Dutch architect H. P. Berlage. The work of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which was popular in Holland at the time, was another source.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Stained purpleheart wood
Brief description
Armchair, purpleheart, stained brown, designed by Gerrit Rietveld, made by Rietveld with the assistance of G. van der Groenekan, for Piet Elling, 1918
Physical description
Armchair, purpleheart, stained brown, 88.9 x 66 x 66 cm
Dimensions
  • Height: 93cm
  • Width: 61cm
  • Depth: 82cm
Measured by Nigel Bamforth 22 July 2005
Styles
Gallery label
  • GERRIT REITVELD (Dutch, 1888-1964) Made by REITVELD with the assistance of G. VAN DER GROENEKAN ARMCHAIR, 1918 Purpleheart, stained brown Popularly known as the Red Blue Chair, this Rietveld form has become synonymous with the geometry and primary colours of the influential modernist de Stijl movement. This version, however, predates the use of colour on the chair by about five years. Rietveld attempted to construct a chair from its most basic components, producing an abstract, architectural construction that has, since the 1950s, become an icon of modernism. Although reproductions of two Rietveld chairs were acquired by the V&A's Circulation Department, it was only in 1987 that the museum purchased an original piece.(1999)
  • Rietveld's revolutionary and influential design was an attempt to reinvent the idea of the chair form. Obviously more concerned with appearance than comfort, Rietveld has broken down the component parts of his chair into pure structure: the arms and legs are treated as a grid, the seat and back as planes. This stained version precedes the more famous painted example by several years.
  • Rietveld's chair is one of hte most unusual, important and influential designs of hte twentieth century. This particular example is exceptional in that its provenance dates to around 1920; it is a stained rather than painted version; and, above all, appears to predate any known painted example (the so-called 'Red and Blue') by at least three years. It belonged to the Dutch architect Piet Elling who Rietveld met in 1919.(1989)
Summary
The popular name for this piece is the ‘Red Blue Chair’. This design is now identified with the geometrical style and primary colours used by the influential Dutch De Stijl movement. However, Gerrit Rietveld, who designed it, did not begin to produce the famous painted versions until 1923. The original design and several early versions, such as this one, were simply stained. The geometric design and simple construction of the chair grew out of Rietveld’s search for new forms. He also drew on the simple geometric furniture designed by the Dutch architect H. P. Berlage. The work of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which was popular in Holland at the time, was another source.
Bibliographic references
  • Wilk, Christopher, ed. . Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. p.196-7, ill. ISBN 085667463X.
  • Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
  • '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 II.
Collection
Accession number
W.9-1989

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Record createdMay 1, 2001
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