A Chair that Conquered America History of Thonet Bentwood Furniture: Design-Technology-Production

10 Feb


Prof. Jiří Pelcl, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (UMPRUM), Prague

Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 6:30 pm

New York University

Department of Art History

Silver Center 301

100 Washington Square East

(entrance on Waverly Place)

Michael Thonet (1796-1871) patented in Germany a process of heat bending of several layers of wood veneer glued together and laminated. He also developed a method of bending solid wood. His bent solid and laminated beech chairs remain among the most successful industrial designs of all time. Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos used Thonet’s bentwood technology in their furniture designs. Le Corbusier later used Thonet furniture in his Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau at the 1925 Paris Exhibition. Painters Auguste Renoir and Toulouse Lautrec featured Thonet chairs in their paintings and drawings, and Pablo Picasso had one in his studio.

Thonet settled in Bohemia in 1856 to open his first factories, and by 1900 Thonet’s furniture was a smashing success in the USA. His Chair No.14 became the best-known and most manufactured model. It is still produced in its original design in the factory in the Czech Republic.

Jiří Pelcl is a prominent personality in the field of design in the Czech Republic. Aside from applied design work for industrial manufacturing, he also teaches design and is the head of Furniture and Interior Design Studio at UMPRUM in Prague, where he was a rector in 2002–2005. His design work has received many awards and is represented in permanent design collections around the world. Currently, he is a visiting Fulbright Masaryk Scholar at the Pratt Institute researching history of the Shaker furniture style. www.pelcl.cz

Sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians, New York Metropolitan Chapter; NYU Department of Art History, Urban Design and Architecture Studies; and Czech House, NYU Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, in cooperation with Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences


–Free and open to the public–


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