Red and Blue Chair
With its geometric composition and primary colors, the Red and Blue armchair has become the definitive symbol of the Dutch De Stijl (“the Style”) movement. The chair’s creator, Gerrit Rietveld (1888–1964), was perhaps an unlikely pioneer of this revolutionary aesthetic movement given his traditional path to making furniture. The son of a carpenter in Utrecht, Rietveld left school at age 11 to begin an apprenticeship with his father. Later, he attended night school and worked for a goldsmith. In 1917, Rietveld opened his own furniture workshop.
Although he trained as a cabinetmaker, Rietveld’s interests eventually grew beyond craftsmanship, and he began to focus closely on the intellectual concepts of design. He built objects from minimal materials and believed that a chair could provide more than rest for the body; the greater goal — the one he set for this chair — was to provide for the “well-being and comfort of the spirit.” On the underside of the seat he inscribed, “When I sit, I do not want to sit as my seated flesh likes, but rather as my seated spirit would sit, if it wove the chair for itself.”
Designed in 1918, the original Red and Blue armchair was neither red nor blue — it was made of beechwood. But in its geometric precision, the piece embodied the modernist De Stijl philosophy to achieve postwar harmony through a rigorous aesthetic of pairing basic shapes with a minimal color palette. Rietveld designed the chair using only wood that had been cut in standard, readily available sizes. In doing so, he hoped it would one day be mass produced. This move toward an ethos of industrialization was pure De Stijl, and would later influence movements like Bauhaus and International Style. Writer and architect Theo van Doesburg, who cofounded the movement with the artist Piet Mondrian, featured Rietveld’s chair in De Stijl, the magazine he edited and published that launched alongside the Dutch movement.
It wasn’t until approximately 1923 that Rietveld painted the chair in the colors it is known for today — the colors most frequently associated with Mondrian and De Stijl. In addition to furniture and decorative objects, Rietveld designed 100 buildings throughout his career but only one outside the Netherlands. By far the most important is the Rietveld Schröder House (1924), considered the only house built completely on De Stijl precepts. Cassina manufactures the Red and Blue chair today, and the ingenious simplicity of Rietveld’s construction continues to challenge designers as often as it delights them.
Gerrit Rietveld Red And Blue Chair
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