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Jean Prouvé

French  •  1901-1984

Biography

Jean Prouvé believed in design as a vehicle for improvement. His manufactory Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, located in Nancy, France, produced furniture for schools, factories and municipal projects, both within France and in locations as far flung as the Congo. Though he designed for the masses, pieces such as his "Potence" lamps and "Standard" chairs are among the most iconic fixtures in sophisticated, high-design interiors today. Collectors connect with his utilitarian, austere designs that strip materials down to the bare minimum without compromising on proportion or style.

Prouvé grew up in Nancy, France, the son of Victor Prouvé, an artist and co-founder of the École de Nancy, and Marie Duhamel, a pianist. He apprenticed to master blacksmiths in Paris and opened a small wrought iron forge in Nancy. However it was sheet steel that ultimately captured Prouvé's imagination, and he ingeniously adapted it to furniture, lighting and even pre-fabricated houses, often collaborating with other design luminaries of the period, such as Robert Mallet-Stevens, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand.

Insights

  • Major exhibitions on Jean Prouvé have been held at Paris' Centre Pompidou, Weil am Rhein's Vitra Design Museum and New York's Museum of Modern Art, among many others.

  • Phillips achieved $185,000 in December 2015 for a "Potence" pivoting wall light, a world auction record for the form, one of Prouvé's most famous designs.

  • During World War II, Jean Prouvé was a member of the French Resistance and used the code name "locksmith."

"It was sheet steel that inspired me — folded, pressed, ribbed, then soldered."

Past Lots

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