LIFE photographer Gjon Mili visited Picasso in 1949. Mili showed the artist some of his photographs of ice skaters with tiny lights affixed to their skates jumping in the dark–and Picasso’s mind began to race. The series of photographs–Picasso’s light drawings–were made with a small flashlight in a dark room; the images vanished almost as soon as they were created.
Picasso’s Light Drawings, Photographed by Gjon Mili, for LIFE
From the 1920s to the 1940s Constantin Brancusi was preoccupied by the theme of a bird in flight. He concentrated not on the physical attributes of the bird but on its movement. In “Bird in Space” wings and feathers are eliminated, the swell of the body is elongated, and the head and beak are reduced to a slanted oval plane. Balanced on a slender conical footing, the figure’s upward thrust is unfettered. Brancusi’s inspired abstraction realizes his stated intent to capture “the essence of flight.” This particular conception of “Bird in Space” is the first in a series of seven sculptures carved from marble and nine cast in bronze, all of which were painstakingly smoothed and polished.
“Bird in Space” has broken the world auction record for a sculpture in 2005 by fetching $27,456,000 at Christie’s New York to an anonymous buyer.
Bird in Space by Constantin Brancusi
Google has made available images from LIFE magazine. The Industrial designer Raymond Loewy was the icon of the age and often photographed for lifestyle magazines as well as featured on the cover of Time. These images date from 1947 and 1948.
Raymond Loewy House, Palm Springs, California, USA, Photographed by Peter Stackpole, for LIFE
German designer Konstantin Grcic was born in Munich in 1965. After opening his practice KGID (Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design) in 1990, he very quickly received recognition for his simple, ingenious products. With numerous commissions from the most important names in the design industry, such as Authentics, Flos, iittala, Krups, Magis and Muji, his work has been widely published in several books and design reviews, and has been awarded the prestigious Compasso d’Oro (Milan, 2001) and Nombre d’Or (Paris, 2004), among others.
Grcic describes himself as a mix of German mentality and English education. Following his initial training as a cabinetmaker, from which he retains the hands-on approach and sensitivity to materials of a craftsman, Grcic went on to study contemporary design at the Royal College of Art in London. This formative experience added a new dimension to his fascination with making things. As a result, every one of his products is characterized by his careful research into the history of design and architecture, and his passion for technology and materials. So much so, that Achille Castiglioni, one of the most significant Italian designers of the twentieth century, considered him to be his ‘spiritual heir’.
The book presents the work of KGID, showcasing a remarkable portfolio of products and design concepts with especially commissioned photographs and original drawings. It also offers a rare insight into his design process by showing the various stages of a product’s development through sketches, models, computer renderings and snapshots at the workshops of KGID and several manufacturers. With texts by Konstantin Grcic, Pierre Doze and Francesca Picchi, and conceived by Florian Böhm and Konstantin Grcic, this is the first publication on one of the most interesting and prolific designers of today.
Monograph: KGID (Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design), Edited by Florian Böhm
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Fabricius & Kastholm met each other at the School of Interior design, subsequently formed a partnership and together founded an architect’s office in 1961. They specialised in designing furniture and single-family housing. Although they have individually created some interesting designs, it is in partnership that they have achieved their greatest successes. Their furniture is elegant, refined, and designed with an amazing sense of functionality, detail and quality.
Preben Fabricius (left) [1931-1984] He served his apprenticeship as a cabinet maker with master joiner Niels Vodder in 1952, followed by a course at the School of Interior Design. On completing his studies he was employed by architect Ole Hagen.
Jorgen Kastholm, (right) [1931-2007] first trained as a blacksmith, and later as an architect at the school of interior design, he worked for a period of time with Arne Jacobsen, who became an inspiration to him, he later travelled to Beirut, where he designed the local SAS office (Scandinavian Airlines System). Since then Kastholm has had a successful career and received many prizes and awards.
George Nelson (1908-1986) was an important modernist whose work cut across the fields of interior, industrial and exhibition design. Nelson studied architecture at Yale University in the 1920s, and in the next two decades earned a strong reputation as a writer on design for Architectural Forum, Interiors and Fortune. In 1945 Nelson began a long association with the Herman Miller Furniture Company of Zeeland, Michigan, where as head designer he developed an innovative line of furniture and commissioned new designs from others. His first commission was Isamu Noguchi’s biomorphic glass-topped coffee table, which began production in 1947, the first of many designs that the sculptor would create for Herman Miller in the late Forties. Nelson also was responsible for bringing the designs of Charles Eames to Herman Miller, and he collaborated with R. Buckminster Fuller on a number of projects. Among Nelson’s own creations are classic works of Fifties design, including the bubble lamp, ball clock, marshmallow sofa and the pole-supported wall-storage system.
The Vitra Design Museum at Weil am Rhein in Germany is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Nelson’s birth with a retrospective of his work, opening Sept. 13. “Although Nelson was one of the most important American designers and design writers, it’s almost as if we are introducing him in Europe and reintroducing him in the U.S.,” said Jochen Eisenbrand, the exhibition’s curator. “Most people, even those interested in design, may not know much more about him than a few design classics.”
Alberto Meda came to design from engineering, bringing with him a pragmatic mind, an attention to details in materials and production process, in addition to formal concerns. This applied-science background has shaped Meda’s recognizable stamp of elegant simplicity, designs that are at once modern in form and organic in feel.
Meda started his career in the 1970s as the technical director of the plastics manufacturer Kartell. There he began to forge a unique relationship between technology and design experimentation, incorporating poetry as well as engineering into his imaginative solutions. He subsequently opened his own office in Milan.
Meda believes that “the more complex the technology, the more it is suitable for the production of objects for simple use, with a unitary image, almost organic.” He demonstrated this idea with the Light Light Armchair, his first carbon–fiber chair, manufactured in a small series. The chair, which weighs a mere four pounds, is a physical and psychological representation of lightness.
See more products designed by Alberto Meda
Marcel Lajos Breuer was born in the provincial city of Pecs, Hungary. His early study and teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau in the 1920s introduced him to three older giants of the era that had a life-long influence upon his professional career – Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier.
Breuer left the Bauhaus and moved to Berlin in 1928 and then moved to England in 1935 when the Nazis made it impossible for anyone who had been a part of the Bauhaus to practice architecture. In 1937, Breuer joined Walter Gropius in his architectural practice and also became a professor at Harvard. Breuer moved to New York in 1946 to found his own architectural firm, and like Le Corbusier, Breuer chose concrete as his medium of choice. He used concrete in his design of the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City.
Marcel Breuer’s most recognized furniture design was the first bent tubular steel chair, known as the Wassily Chair. The Wassily Chair was designed in 1925 and inspired by the curved tubular steel handlebars on Breuer’s Adler bicycle. He designed his famous Wassily chair for painter Wassily Kandinsky, Breuer’s colleague on the Bauhaus faculty. Kandinsky admired Breuer’s finished chair design so much that did Breuer made an additional copy for Kandinsky to use in his home. When the Italian manuafcturer re-released the chair in the 1960s, they designated the name “Wassily” after they had learned that Kandinsky had been the recipient of one of the earliest post-prototype units.
Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) Biography
Link: Breuer Trailer House
Nanna Ditzel’s career has spanned five decades, Born in Copenhagen in 1923, she would later become an apprentice cabinetmaker at the Richards School before completing her education at the School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In the same year that she graduated from the Academy she and her first husband, Jorgen Ditzel, established a design studio in order to continue their already fruitful collaboration.
During this period of her career she designed several signature pieces like the “Hanging” or “Basket” chair that could be suspended from the ceiling and serves as a remarkable example of the Ditzel’s experiments with wicker. In 1954 Nanna and Jorgen began creating jewelry for Georg Jensen. These designs would win them both gold and silver medals at the Milan Trienalle. Using the rippling of little waves across the surface of water as an important source of inspiration Nanna Ditzel created, throughout her career, jewelry that communicates an elegant interpretation of simple organic form. Collaboration with her husband also produced a series of children’s furniture the most notable of which is the “Toadstool” which was a stackable piece that could serve as either stool or table.
Official site: Nanna Ditzel
James Irvine (Born London 1958) studied furniture design first at Kingston University and then at the Royal College of Art. One of his closest friends at both institutions was his fellow designer Jasper Morrison who remains a friend and occasional collaborator today. After graduating from the RCA in 1984, Irvine worked first at Olivetti’s design studio in Milan and then for Toshiba in Tokyo before returning to Milan in 1988. He continued to work for Olivetti under the guidance of Ettore Sottsass, and in 1992 became a partner in Sottsass’ studio. Since leaving Sottsass Associati in 1998 to concentrate on his own projects, Irvine has developed products for companies such as Arabia, Artemide, Asplund, B&B Italia, Canon, Danese, Magis and Whirlpool as well as working on ambitious public projects such as the design of the Mercedes Benz city fleet of buses for Hannover.