Anyone who has yielded to the luxurious embrace of an Eames lounge chair is well acquainted with its sensual and aesthetic pleasures but Charles and Ray Eames, the husband and wife team behind the enduring classic furniture designs are less familiar.
Their partnership and multifaceted careers — they’re credited with both reinventing the concept of the chair and putting the playfulness back into modernism — are explored in Eames: The Architect and the Painter, Jason Cohn and veteran broadcast producer Bill Jersey’s well-crafted, straightforward and insightful documentary. A must for those with an interest in modern design, the film’s portrait of an unconventional marriage during the 1950s, and the alchemy that fueled a professional collaboration between intensely creative personalities, who perfectly complemented one another, should extend its appeal beyond the ranks of subscribers toArchitectural Digest and Dwell.
Narrated by James Franco, the First Run Features doc opens theatrically in New York and L.A. November 18, and will have its broadcast premiere December 19 as part of the PBS American Masters series.
Described by those who knew them as a union between “a painter that didn’t paint and an architecture school drop-out who never got his license,” the pair initially dedicated themselves to a utopian vision of promulgating beauty to a broad audience through high quality, low cost, mass produced furnishings. Together they helped transform 20th century design in the post-war era.
A photographer, furniture designer and a filmmaker who made over 100 shorts including the much imitated Powers of Ten, Charles was a charismatic, workaholic visionary driven by a voracious intellectual curiosity. Their Venice, California studio, likened to a circus and Disneyland by those who reminisce about working there, was built on the model of Renaissance art studio with the master at the top of the pyramid and a host of talented assistants executing his vision.
Not surprisingly, Charles often overshadowed his wife but the film goes to some lengths to correct the misperception that he was the only Eames who counted. A painter with a keen design sense, exceptionally gifted in the realm of color and a notorious perfectionist, Ray’s aesthetic contributions to the design process were crucial to their success, a fact not lost on her husband who once acknowledged, “Anything I can do, she can do better.”
She was also an obsessive collector and maker of notes on cigarette papers. Her illustrated letters to Charles, along with some 350,000 photographs and voluminous documents archived at the Library of Congress, and shared with the filmmakers, are a delightful reflection of a teeming creative mind.
The doc incorporates archival photographs, television appearances, clips from Eames’ films as well as footage of the futuristic IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the couple’s trendsetting Pacific Palisades home, perched on a bluff overlooking the ocean and filled with fine art and an evolving collage of objects and contraptions that caught their eye. Family members, historians, critics and fellow artists, who worked with or simply admired them, add pertinent commentary, while editor, Don Bernier, smoothly integrates a wealth of material and contributions by multiple lensers.
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Fifty years ago, the IBM Selectric typewriter was introduced to the public. In the 25 years that followed, more than 13 million of the typewriters were sold. The machine, designed by Eliot Noyes over a period of seven years, transformed typewriting by allowing the use of different fonts and dramatically increasing the speed at which most people could type. Unlike other typewriters, which struck the paper with hammers, it used golf ball-like type heads embossed with a full set of alphanumeric characters. The ball zipped along in close proximity to the paper, tilting and rotating as necessary to lay down characters on the page almost instantly. Thanks to that head, the typewriter was the first of its kind to eliminate carriage return.
The aesthetic design of the Selectric was the responsibility of Eliot Noyes, an architect and industrial designer who served as consulting design director to IBM for 21 years. Noyes drew on some of the sculptural qualities of Olivetti typewriters in Italy. The result was a patented, timeless shape, and a high-water mark for IBM’s industrial design and product innovation.
The US Post office has included the Selectric in the new series of stamps in honor of Pioneers of American Industrial Design.
In this fresh look at the work of Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), the Petit Palais reveals for the first time the part played by photography in her creative process, both as a source of inspiration and sometimes as an actual component of her pieces. When she joined the Le Corbusier/Pierre Jeanneret studio as furniture design associate in 1928, she at once began using photography for her preliminary studies, then as a means for observing the “laws of nature” — in the mountains, especially — and the urban context. This provided her with inspiration for her experiments with forms, materials and spatial arrangements. The exhibition also particularly emphasises her passion for objects found in the course of her walks; in their distancing of the rationalist spirit of the 1920s, these brought greater flexibility and formal freedom to her work.
Charlotte Perriand 1903-1999: From photography to interior design
April 7 – September 18, Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
Wright is set to auction this sofa designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller client, Braniff International Airways. Signed with applied inventory label to leg: [Braniff International Airways Property No. 107089].
Sofa, model 66303, by Alexander Girard, for Herman Miller, 1967, Auction at Wright, Estimate: $6,000–8,000
Wright is set to auction a spectacular set of clocks designed by George Nelson for the Howard Miller Clock Company of Zeeland, Michigan.
Triangle Wall Clock, model 2225A, 1955; Clocknik Table Clock, model 2270, 1959; Wall Clock, model 2237, 1957; Platter Wall Clock, model 2274A, 1959, by Howard Miller Clock Company, Auction at Wright
Cassina presents two new re-editions of the iconic 699 Superleggera chair designed by Gio Ponti for the Cassina I Contemporanei Collection. Alongside the current natural ash-wood, black lacquered and white lacquered chairs with an Indian cane seat, new variants taken from Cassina’s late 1950’s production are available with colourful padded seats in removable leather or fabric. This version, with 450 possible combinations, has a natural ash-wood frame that can be open pore varnished in black or white, elegantly revealing the true essence of the wooden structure. The second re-edition, inspired by a model designed by Ponti in the 1950’s for exhibitions but which was never serially produced, has a stunning bicolour black and white lacquered frame and padded white or graphite leather seat. “In the darkness” said Ponti “it will be even lighter because it will be supported by just two legs”.
Gio Ponti regarded the Superleggera chair as one of his three masterpieces (together with the Pirelli Tower in Milan and the Concattedrale of Taranto). It represents a symbol of perfection and balance between solidity and lightness, with a triangular section of just 18 millimetres and a minimum weight of 1,700 grams. It is the fruit of Gio Ponti’s research and the experimental and creative ability and expertise of Cassina and its craftsmen, who have produced this chair non-stop since 1957.
699 Superleggera Chair, by Gio Ponti, for Cassina
Gio Ponti (1891–1979) was one of Italy’s most influential designers whose work includes automobiles, furniture, interiors, and buildings. Working in a multitude of materials, he is a pivotal figure in the history of twentieth-century architecture and design, and his work continues to inspire young designers who are increasingly rediscovering it today. This expansive and exhaustively researched monograph chronicles the complete spectrum of Gio Ponti’s output, from early ceramic work as design director for Richard Ginori to his last and most famous architectural works, Milan’s Pirelli Tower and the Museum of Modern Art in Denver. Also featured are Ponti’s automobile designs for Alfa Romeo, interiors for Italian luxury liners, bathroom fixtures for American Standard, the famous Superleggera chair for Cassina, and the Alitalia offices in New York.
Gio Ponti, Edited by Ugo La Pietra, Hardcover, 8-7/8 x 11, ISBN: 9780847832705
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Chess grand master Bobby Fischer specifically requested the Time Life Lobby Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames while he competed in the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik In 1972. He said he could concentrate well in the chair. When his opponent Boris Spaasky saw it, he refused to play until he got one too. Vitra has produced a short video on this historical event.
Time Life Lobby Chair, by Charles and Ray Eames
Tapio Wirkkala is best known for designing the original Finlandia Vodka bottle, inspired by the elements in his native Finland. This series of five bottles in Murano glass, employs the “Incalmo” technique where two different types of glass, worked separately, are fused together.
Bolle Bottles, 1968, by Tapio Wirkkala, for Venini
Part of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, the Sarpaneva cast iron pot was inspired by Timo Sarpaneva’s memories of his shamanistic grandfather who was a also a blacksmith.
Designed in 1960, this pot is so famous that it was featured in a collection of postage stamps celebrating the Finish Design Elite. Apart from its aesthetic merits, it’s also highly practical and designed for everyday use and enjoyment. You can use it in the oven, on the stove and as a beautiful presentation pot. Cast iron is one of the best materials for cooking because it stores heat and cooks evenly and gently. With its clever removable wooden handle, you can easily lift the lid off the pot and carry it from the stove to your table.
Born in 1926 in Helsinki, Timo Sarpaneva was one of the great personalities responsible for the world reputation of Finnish design since the 1950s. Sarpaneva was Doctor HC of the Royal College of Art in London and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki and Academician HC of the University of Mexico.
Iittala Sarpaneva Cast Iron Pot, by Timo Sarpaneva
Like other pieces of furniture which are now regarded as modern classics, Oxchair was ahead of its time when it was launched in 1960. Making use of superior craftsmanship skills Hans J. Wegner had created a sophisticated and demanding construction. Among the jobs it does, and one that lies close to Wegner’s heart, is to make it possible to sit comfortably in many different ways so that one can change position continously. Only then can one sit really comfortably. It is Wegner’s own favourite chair at home.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Oxchair, an exclusive limited edition of Oxchair is offered in select premium quality vegetable tanned leather. The leather is called Alpha and comes in three colors black, natural and burgundy red. The seats are numbered and marked with a special anniversary tag. In addition, anyone who buys an anniversary Oxchair will receive an exclusive anniversary book. This anniversary book is in the same limited edition as chair and can not be obtained otherwise. The purchaser of commemorative chair is invited to visit the Erik Jorgensen factory in Svendborg, Denmark.
50th Anniversary Edition by Special Request: Erik Jørgensen Oxchair by Hans J. Wegner
Oxchair, by Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) 50th Anniversary Edition, by Erik Jørgensen