In reaction to mass-produced sham, the Arts and Crafts movement was established in 1861 by the English poet and designer William Morris. Along with such associates as the architect Philip Webb and the Pre-Raphaelite painters Ford Madox Brown and Edward Burne-Jones, Morris sought a return to medieval handcraft traditions. Together, the group produced designs for every branch of the decorative arts, with the intent of elevating them to the level of the fine arts. Their products, including furniture, were much admired for their beauty and consummate craftsmanship and were widely copied. By the 1890s, the movement had spread to the Continent and North America. The influence of Morris and his followers was enormous; their designs are often considered the wellspring of modern furniture design. Morris's ideas were popularized by the English architect and writer Charles Eastlake in his hugely successful Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and other Details (1868). Eastlake advocated a return to simple, rectilinear designs inspired by country work, executed in oak and various fruitwoods. In the United States, where Eastlake's book became a decorating bible, the simplicity was often embellished with such luxurious additions as ebonized wood, gilding, and inlays.
Art Nouveau Furniture
Directly fostered by the Arts and Crafts movement was the style called art nouveau, which flourished between the 1890s and 1910 in all of the arts. Art nouveau may be characterized as a style derived from organic forms that convey a sense of movement, exemplified by the famous whiplash curve found in many art nouveau works. In furniture, its early exponents were the Belgian architects Henry van de Velde and Victor Horta, who furnished the interiors of their buildings with pieces designed to complement the sinuous forms of the architectural settings. In France, the architect Hector Guimard, creator in 1900 of the graceful M�tro (subway) stations in Paris, also designed similarly asymmetrical, heavily carved free-form furniture. The noted glassmaker �mile Gall� also designed some of the most opulent art nouveau furniture, in which plant and flower motifs predominate. Louis Majorelle produced luxurious furniture, again inspired by forms from nature, and went on to become a notable art deco designer after World War I (1914-1918). The Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh produced, in his unique interpretation of art nouveau, chastely beautiful furniture. Characteristic pieces are of oak painted white, with elegant inlays and appurtenances of metal or stained glass in curvilinear, abstracted plant forms
|Art Deco, style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, used primarily in the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, and interior decor. The first echoes of European modernism reverberated in Canada in the 1920s. Art deco, a sleek, geometrical style.|
Art Deco Walnut Burl Wall/Desk Unit Year: 1930
|This ebony and brass table was designed by Jacques �mile Ruhlmann in about 1931 in the art deco style. The table�s simple, elegant shapes are characteristic of art deco design.|
The Bauhaus, founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, by the architect Walter Gropius, was a comprehensive school of art and architecture that proved to be one of the most influential forces in the development of 20th-century art. Classic contemporary furniture, still being manufactured, was designed by its most renowned architects, Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Breuer designed his Wassily armchair, of chrome-plated steel tubing and canvas, in 1925 and his much-imitated cantilevered side chair, of tubing with wood-framed cane seat and back panels, in 1928. Mies created his world-famous Barcelona chair, a masterpiece consisting of two elegantly curved X-frames of chromed steel strips supporting rectangular leather cushions, in 1929. The aim of both architects was to devise aesthetically pleasing furniture for mass production.
|Some of the most widely admired contemporary furniture originated in Scandinavia, especially in the years following World War II (1939-1945). To name two of a host of designers, the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and the Danish designer Arne Jacobsen created laminated wood furniture of exquisite proportions and eminent practicality for mass manufacture|
In the decade following World War II, many furniture designers came to prominence. Among the best known were the architects Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. Adapting wartime technology in the use of wood, metals, and plastics, they collaborated on the design of the so-called Eames chair and ottoman, constructed of subtly curved molded plywood with deeply padded leather upholstery, set on a metal pedestal base. In 1956 Saarinen designed an entire range of pedestal furniture in molded plastic and metal; the white chairs, in silhouette resembling a wineglass, have loose cushion seats in bright fabrics; the tables, ranging in size from side tables to conference tables, have tops of either marble or wood. These, like many other well-designed modern pieces, have been copied extensively by mass manufacturers. Other gifted designers included the sculptor Harry Bertoia, who in 1952 produced the lightweight wire mesh chair that bears his name, manufactured by Knoll Associates; Florence S. Knoll, like Eero Saarinen and Bertoia a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and later president of Knoll International, New York City; and Paul McCobb, who based his widely marketed Planner group on simple and functional 18th- and 19th-century Shaker furniture.
By the 1990s furniture styles had proliferated to such a degree that literally hundreds of examples existed. The positive aspect of this stylistic glut was the enormous range of choice it offered, from classic modern pieces still in manufacture to high-tech medical and industrial furnishings, from antiques of any period (or costly reproductions of them) to inexpensive do-it-yourself unassembled furniture in any style desired.