Jean Prouvé - Modern Masters London Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris

  • Exhibited

    'Jean Prouvé: Architecture', Gagosian Gallery, Paris, 20 October-23 December 2010
    'Jean Prouvé: Architecture, Maison des Jours Meilleurs 1956', Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, 25 May-19 July 2012

  • Literature

    'VIIIe exposition de l'habitation', L'Architecture d'Aujourd'Hui, no. 34, February-March 1951, p. XV fig. 3
    'Centre Scientifique et Technique du Batiment', L'Architecture Française, Architecture Urbanisme Décoration, no. 143-144, 1953, p. 22
    Willy Boesiger, ed., Le Corbusier et son Atelier rue de Sevres 35, Œuvre Complète Volume 5: 1946-1952, New York, 1990, pp. 209, 213
    Galeries Jousse Seguin and Enrico Navarra, Jean Prouvé, Paris, 1998, pp. 55-56 and a Steph Simon prospectus
    Peter Sulzer, Jean Prouvé: Œuvre complète / Complete Works, Volume 3: 1944-1954, Basel, 2005, pp. 156 for a technical drawing
    Galerie Patrick Seguin, Jean Prouvé, Volume 1, Paris, 2017, illustrated pp. 122-37
    Galerie Patrick Seguin, Jean Prouvé, Volume 2, Paris, 2017, illustrated pp. 66-67, 161-63, 200, 260, 266

  • Catalogue Essay

    Cité & Visiteur chairs by Jean Prouvé

    The 1930s were a pivotal moment for Jean Prouvé, a time in which he changed workshops from Rue de Custine to Rue des Jardiniers and set up the iconic Les Ateliers de Jean Prouvé with engineer and brotherin-law André Schott. The Cité armchair (Lot 224) is a product of this period, designed for a competition to furnish student dorm rooms at the Cité Universitaire in Nancy, France, where he would later become mayor. It was the smallest series model to come out of Les Ateliers. Alongside its comfortability, which was its main marketing feature, it was also light and hygienic and was sold to sanatoriums as well as universities. The new trend for ‘easy’ chairs to replace the older ‘reading’ chairs saw a pressed-steel structure with open U-shaped legs linked by crosspieces. This was then attached to a tubing frame bearing generous dimensions of a stretched fabric seat, with screws for amendment of the fabric’s tension. The armrests were made of broad leather pieces that were attached to the frame with metal tabs. Of this model, 60 variations were made, each with slight amendments to the armrests and spring-load adjustability of the chair. Its rational and sculptural aesthetic would pave the way for many of Jean Prouvé’s home furniture designs and indeed, the designer himself kept one in his own living room. The model seen here today comes from the designer’s private collection so it would not be imprudent to suggest that this was that very chair.

    Despite their popularity, large scale production of such relaxation models only began after World War II, such as that of the Visiteur armchair (lot 226), a progression of the present lot design Cité armchair. The former was created with the intention of a chaise lounge for the Solvey Hospital, however its aesthetic design made it popular for home use as well. Partly due to the scarcity of steel but also as a departure from metal furniture made during the war, Prouvé began to construct pieces that were made of wood such as the Visiteur. The model has many renditions, each one an improvement of its predecessor, in terms of lightness, stability, toughness and adjustability. The model seen here, the FV-12 is no exception. Indicative of one of the later models, the slats of the seat and back of the FV-11 have been replaced by plywood sheets, which have been slotted into grooves into the wooden side members and reinforced with metal profiles. The legs have been stiffened with transversal tubes mounted with rubber washers and round head screws, while the top of the backrest is fitted with a drawn wire crosspiece. The ability to meld both design and functionality as seen in the Cité and Visiteur armchairs is a characteristic instantly attributable to Jean Prouvé. His double identity as both engineer and designer provided him with a better understanding of the materials he worked with and meant ‘he was not frightened of new forms. […] he was able to design and build furniture, such as the early chairs and the armchair for the Cité Universitaire at Nancy, of a different quality from that being made by other avant-garde designers of the period’ (Joseph Belmont in Peter Sulzer, Jean Prouvé: OEuvre complète / Complete Works, Volume 1: 1917-1933, Basel, 2000, p. 11).

  • Artist Biography

    Jean Prouvé

    French • 1901 - 1984

    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.

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Rare 'Visiteur' armchair, type FV. 12

Oak, oak plywood, painted steel, painted tubular steel, brass, fabric.
95 x 69 x 91 cm (37 3/8 x 27 1/8 x 35 7/8 in.)
Manufactured by Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, Nancy, France.

£70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for £203,000

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

Modern Masters

London Auction 26 April 2017