Gerrit Thomas Rietveld - Design London Wednesday, April 26, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Literature

    Peter Vöge, The Complete Rietveld Furniture, Rotterdam, 1993, p. 75, cat. no. 91
    Ida van Zijl, Gerrit Rietveld, London, 2010, p. 99 for similar examples and a drawing

  • Catalogue Essay

    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, 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 gaspipes and T-fttings 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.
    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. But it was 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 such as the present lot.

    Rob Driessen
    March 2017

  • 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.

    View More Works

Property of Marianne Kaas, the Netherlands



designed 1927, produced 1930-1931
Tubular steel with original ‘aluminium paint’, painted bent plywood.
59.7 x 39.7 x 60.8 cm (23 1/2 x 15 5/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
Produced by Metz & Co, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

£20,000 - 30,000 

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta e Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019


London Auction 27 April 2017