Musée d'Orsay: Bruno Paul Armchair

Bruno Paul

Bruno Paul (1874-1968)
Elm, modern upholstery
H. 85.5; W. 71; D. 66 cm
© ADAGP, Paris © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi


Fauteuil [Armchair]

This armchair was part of one of the great sets of furniture shown by Germany in the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1900 in the category "Fixtures for public buildings and houses." It was intended for a hunting lodge. The designer, Bruno Paul, was trained as a painter. He quickly took an interest in the decorative arts and helped found the Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk (United workshops for art in craftwork) in Munich in 1897. This armchair was made in those workshops.
It is a particularly good example of the Jugendstil trends in German furniture. This term, derived from the name of the avant-garde magazine Jugend founded in 1896, is used for the equivalent of Art Nouveau in German speaking countries.
It shows a manifest desire not to conceal the construction of the piece but, on the contrary, to make the component parts patently obvious. The chair back, legs and armrests are in fact simply cut out with no relief or modelling.

This trend reflected a twofold influence. On the one hand, that of Henry van de Velde (1863-1957), who had been highly appreciated in Germany since the International Exhibition at Dresden in 1897, and on the other hand, that of Chinese and Japanese furniture, austere assemblages of uprights and cross bars. However this rigour was tempered, at least in the early creations of the Munich workshops, by a whimsical anthropomorphic note: here the ends of the armrests suggest clenched fists.

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Tip a friend Print