Thonet History


Yes, I am fascinated by the Thonet History!

I copied this short history time line from the German Thonet Factory‘s site:

  • 1796 Company founder Michael Thonet was born in Boppard am Rhein, Germany.
  • 1819 The Thonet firm was founded in Boppard am Rhein.
  • 1842 Prince Metternich called Michael Thonet to Vienna where Thonet played a leading role in the fitting out of Palais Lichtenstein and Palais Schwarzenberg.
  • 1853 Michael Thonet handed over the business to his five sons: the company Gebrueder Thonet was registered.
  • 1856 The first furniture factory was founded in Korycany (Moravia); five further production plants in Eastern Europe were opened in the years that followed.
  • 1859 The consumer chair Thonet No. 14 (today: No. 214…in Germany) reached the production stage.
  • 1889 Founding of the factory in Frankenberg/Eder as the first production plant in Germany.
  • 1912 Highest production level of 2 million articles per year.
  • 1923 Merger to become Thonet Mundus.
  • 1929 Takeover of Standard Möbel Furniture Company of Marcel Breuer and  purchase of the rights to designs by Marcel Breuer.
  • 1931 Production start for the first cantilevered chair S 43  by Mart Stam.
  • 1938 Thonet Mundus shares bought back by the Thonet family.
  • 1945 Dispossession from the facilities in Eastern Europe and destruction of the Thonet building in Vienna; bomb attack on the facility in Frankenberg.
  • 1945-1953 Factory in Frankenberg rebuilt by Georg Thonet.
  • 1953 Thonet exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
  • 1961 The Federal Court of Justice confirms Mart Stam’s artistic copyright of the cantilever chair
  • 1989 Opening of the Thonet Museum in its current form.

I have followed the development of the website over quite some years now, but finally it is getting better and better only recently.

In addition it is interesting to know that the Austrian Firm has been acquired by Poltrona Frau, the Italian chair manufacturer, who do less and less with their web presence.

The Cantilever Chair: By Mart Stam, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or by Marcel Breuer?


Cesca 1 thanks to Steelform.com

Who of this threesome “invented” the Cantilever Chair?

They knew each other. All three worked for, or with people who worked for, the German Bauhaus.

I looked up the following 3 different language varieties of Wikipedia:

Dutch wiki

  1. Mart Stam

    Stam is the designer of the first cantilever tubular chair. On 22 November 1926 he showed a sketch with a blue pen of it on the back side of the wedding announcement of the German painter Willy Baumeister at a dinner party in the Stuttgart hotel Marquart. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was at that dinner Party. Presently this wedding announcement is reportedly in the Mies van der Rohe archive of MoMa, NYC.
    The first producer of this chair is the German company Lorenz.
    In 1927 both Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe showed their versions of this idea in their respective houses of the Weissenhofsiedlung project in Stuttgart.

  2. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
    Mentions only the design in 1929 of the Barcelona chair (also cantilevered but with flat steel, rather than tubular)
  3. Marcel Breuer
    Mentions the design of a steel tubular chair in 1925 for Wassily Kandinsky, hence known as the Wassily chair that still is in production.

English wiki

  1. Mart Stam

    In the late 1920s, Breuer and Stam were involved in a patent lawsuit in German courts, both claiming to be the inventor of the basic cantilever chair design principle. Stam won the lawsuit, and, since that time, specific Breuer chair designs have often been erroneously attributed to Stam. In the United States, Breuer assigned the rights to his designs to Knoll, and for that reason it is possible to find the identical chair attributed to Stam in Europe and to Breuer in the U.S.

  2. Ludwig Mies van der RoheThrough a redirect to Lilly Reich His personal and professional partner for 13 years:

    Lilly and Mies
    Through her involvement with the Werkbund Lilly Reich also met Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. In 1926 she moved from Frankfurt to Berlin to work with Mies. She was Van Der Rohe’s personal and professional partner for 13 years from 1925 until his emigration to the US in 1938. It is said that they were constant companions, working together on curating and implementing exhibitions for the Werkbund, as well as designing modern furniture as part of larger architectural commissions such as the Barcelona Pavilion in 1929 and the Tugendhat House in Brno.

    Two of their best known modern furniture designs from this period are the Barcelona chair and Brno Chair.

    Albert Pheiffer, Vice President of Design and Management at Knoll, has been researching and lecturing on Reich for some time. He points out that:

    “It became more than a coincidence that Mies’s involvement and success in exhibition design began at the same time as his personal relationship with Reich.”

    “It is interesting to note that Mies did not fully develop any contemporary furniture successfully before or after his collaboration with Reich”.

    When Mies Van der Rohe became the director of the Bauhaus School of design and architecture in 1930, Lilly Reich joined him there as one of the only female teachers. Reich taught interior design and furniture design until the late 1930s.

  3. Marcel Breuer
    Places the design of the Wassily Chair in 1925.

German wiki

  1. Mart Stam
    1926: invented the cantilever chair which Marcel Breuer eventually developped further.
  2. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
    Design:

    1. MR 10 and MR 20, also known as “Weißenhof-Chair”, cantilever chair of steel with chromium finish: 1927
    2. Barcelona Chair, designed for the German Pavilion of the World Fair of Barcelona, 1929
    3. Brno Chair, for the Tugendhat villa in Brünn, 1930
    4. Four Seasons Barstool, 1958
  3. Marcel Breuer
    1. 1925-28: became head of the furniture department of Bauhaus Dessau.
    2. 1925: Designed the first tubular steel chair B5 and a tubular steel ottomans.

This post is subject to some updates in the future.

Added May 23rd, 2007:

A page of:

Avant-Garde Design and the Law: Litigation over the Cantilever Chair
an article by Otakar Macel in the
Journal of Design History, Vol. 3, No. 2/3 (1990), pp. 125-143
Oxford University Press

at Jstor, a University related retrieval system at this link: Avant Garde Design and the Law sustains the Dutch Wiki version.

The German Thonet Factory has a Bauhaus overview where the design of several chairs is attributed to Marcel Breuer and the Artistic Copyright to Dutch Chair designer Mart Stam, which is probably close to the outcome of the German litigation.

Rietveld: by Cassina, by Rietveld and by Jenner


Red Blue Rietveld Chair (Photo Moma)
ZigZag by Jenner
Dutch architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld after whom the Amsterdam art school Gerrit Rietveld Academie has been named, designed the Red and Blue (in 1917) and Zig Zag (in 1932) chairs which are world famous.

By Cassina:
Red-Blue and Zig Zag are still being produced by Cassina in their Master “I Maestri” Series.

By Rietveld:
In 2004 a grandson and a great grandson of Gerrit have formed a company Rietveld by Rietveld to start again with the production of several of Gerrit’s furniture designs, because as they say: There is more to Rietveld than the Red-Blue and ZigZag only: All in all there are 215 Rietveld furniture designs. So there remains a lot to do for them.

By Jenner:
I tried to find a flashier photo of ZigZag on the web, but found this photo of Edward Jenner, a Dutch architect who after obtaining the book “How to construct Rietveld furniture” made his own ZigZag. Although it is not the nicest photo, I believe his ZigZag copy is very much how Rietveld himself would have made it. In addition I adore the Rietveld Babychair copy Jenner made for his daughter:

Rietveld Baby Chair by Jenner

Thonet no 14

Thonet no 14

Thonet no 14

My source for this photo: 64 chairs.