Gerrit Thomas Rietveld - Design New York Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | Phillips

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  • The success of Marcel Breuer’s first experiments with tubular steel furniture in 1925-1926 inspired various architect-designers to have a go at this alluring new material. Until then, Gerrit Rietveld had worked almost exclusively with wood. Presumably his first attempt to develop a metal chair was an armchair for Dr. A.M. Hartog which can be dated before 1927 and which shows Rietveld’s inexperience with the new material, using gas pipes and T-fittings which mimicked the straight posts and rails and traditional joints found in his wooden chairs. In 1927, Rietveld developed the Beugel chair (“beugel” meaning bracket), composed of two bracket-shaped tubular steel frames that supported a fibreboard seating shell. In June of the same year, both Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe showed their first cantilever tubular steel chairs at the now legendary Weissenhof exhibition. It is not known whether Rietveld developed the Beugel chair before or after that date, but it is clear that his chair did not exploit the flexible characteristics of tubular steel which made the chair of Mies van der Rohe such an instant success. In October 1927, the Beugel chair was exhibited in Rotterdam alongside Mies’ chair and a tubular steel armchair by Dutch designer and entrepreneur W.H. Gispen. Rietveld also selected aluminum paint to coat the tubular steel, rather than the high-shine chromium-plating employed by his contemporaries.


    Interior for Charely Toorop, Bergen, the Netherlands, including the taller model chair, circa 1931. Artwork © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / c/o Pictoright Amsterdam.


    The real innovation in Rietveld’s Beugel chair however was not found in the frame but in the undulating seat and backrest. Arguably, Rietveld was the first modern designer to develop a one-piece seating shell, predating Alvar Aalto’s experiments. For the initial prototypes of the Beugel chair, Rietveld used solid steel rod for the frame and seat sections out of Vulkanfber: an industrial fibreboard that could be shaped after being soaked in water and (more or less) kept its form when dried. Given his interest for unconventional materials in cabinet making, Rietveld immediately saw the potential of this fibre composite that was mainly used for the production of cheap imitation-leather suitcases. In 1928, the Beugel chair made its international debut in Stuttgart at the Der Stuhl exhibition where it was picked up quickly by the international press, which commented on the groundbreaking seating shells.


    However, it is not until 1930-1931 that the Beugel chair was taken into production by the avant-garde department store Metz & Co., in a version with tubular steel frames and plywood seat sections.  Within the Metz & Co. production there are various iterations of the Beugel, with varying seat and back heights, with and without armrests, and seat colors. There are two armless versions with low backs: the higher one (referenced as Dining Room Beugelstoel in Vöge) and the lower one, which is more rare, given that the higher version was more frequently sold as a part of dining sets or as a desk chair. The present lot is an example of the lower version and displays the original yellow paint.

    • Provenance

      Willem and Anna Kaas-Buijs, acquired from Metz & Co., The Hague, circa 1930
      Thence by descent to Dr. Andries J.W. Kaas, the Netherlands
      Thence by descent to Marianne Kaas, the Netherlands

    • Literature

      Peter Vöge, The Complete Rietveld Furniture, Rotterdam, 1993, pp. 74-75
      Ida van Zijl, Gerrit Rietveld, London, 2012, pp. 85, 92, 99

    • Artist Biography

      Gerrit Thomas Rietveld

      Dutch • 1888 - 1964

      Gerrit Thomas Rietveld began as an apprentice in his father's cabinetmaking workshop, going on to train and work as a draftsman. In 1917 he started his own furniture-making workshop in Utrecht. Positive critical review by Theo van Doesburg in his journal De Stijl resulted in near-instantaneous influence on broader developments in European modernism. This connection to the De Stijl movement also inspired him to introduce color to the posts, rails and terminals of his furniture. His resulting "Red-blue" armchair is among the most iconic chair designs of the twentieth century.

      From the beginning, Rietveld embraced modernist principles of functionalism, simplicity of form and mass-production, and eventually moved away from De Stijl to become a member of the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). Rietveld worked through the post-war years, completing a number of private residences, housing developments and institutions. He continued to design furniture for these commissions as well as for retailers like Metz & Co.

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Property from a Private Collection, the Netherlands



designed 1927, produced 1930-1931
Tubular steel with aluminum-paint, painted birch plywood.
23 1/2 x 15 5/8 x 24 1/4 in. (59.7 x 39.7 x 61.6 cm)
Produced by Metz & Co, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Full Cataloguing

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $30,240

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Benjamin Green
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New York Auction 7 December 2022