At the end of March there is an important auction in Paris. Among the lots this desk with chair by Rene Herbst (1891-1982)
Trained as an architect in Paris, London and Frankfurt, Rene Herbst was a versatile and prolific exponent of Modernism who sought to democratize the avant-garde. Originally an early supporter of Art Deco, Herbst swiftly asserted an identity that embraced the use of progressive new materials within fully resolved interior schemes. Herbst had been quick to recognize that the promotion of good, modern design would be swiftly accepted by the wider public when presented through public environments. Consequently, the styling and interior decoration of the five boutiques that Herbst created for the 1925 Exposition Internationale showcased his progressive vision and led to commissions to design the interiors of the Jean Puiforcat and Siegel boutiques, and the Prunier restaurants in London and Paris. During this period Herbst had been among the first to consider the importance of tubular steel in the serial-production of furniture, and his ‘Sandows’ chair of 1928 – which dispensed with traditional upholstery in favour of exposed rubber springs – represented a statement of breathtaking modernity. Similarly, Herbst’s concepts for lighting were strongly architectural structures that sought to exploit the reflective qualities of chrome-plating and the brillance of electric light. A founding member of the UAM, Herbst undertook numerous collaborations with other members, including selections for the interior of the palace of the Maharaja of Indore, and bespoke modernist furniture for the Parisian townhouse of the Aga Khan, alongside varied commercial commissions that included steel furnishings for ocean liners, and exhibition design.
A sycamore, walnut and chromed steel desk, fitted with nickeled brass reading lamp and three frieze drawers, together with a corresponding desk chair, with chromed steel frame and white leather upholstery, by René Herbst, for his own use, 1928
In September I visited Paris and L’Arche in La Defence. I took the lift to the top floor of L’Arche which has a museum of communication. There I found several chairs to enable viewing various tromp l’oeils. I didn’t know their provenance until I bought the book 100 masterpieces of the Vitra Design museum in Vienna at Prodomo Windows. From that excellent catalog I learned these chairs are most likely variations on the original Sandows Chaise designed by Rene Herbst.
About Rene Herbst
Born in Paris in 1891, René Herbst studied architecture in London and Frankfurt from 1908. After finishing his studies, he traveled extensively in Russia and Italy. In 1919 he started working as a furniture designer and interior decorator in Paris. He founded Etablissements René Herbst to produce the pieces he designed.
In 1925 René Herbst designed several exhibition stalls for the Paris “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes”.
In 1927 René Herbst designed the revolutionary and functional “Chaise Sandows” seat furniture. The frames were nickel-plated tubular steel, the seat and back was made of rubber strips stretched taut and fastened to the frame by hooks at the end.
René Herbst first showed his “Chaise Sandows” at the 1929 Salon d’Automne, where Le Corbusier also presented furniture with tubular steel frames.
In 1930 René Herbst joined Robert Mallet-Stevens, Francis Jourdain, and others in founding the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM); a large group of artists and designers committed to Modernism joined the co-founders. The UAM was founded as a countermovement to Art déco, which the UAM artists repudiated because they found it overloaded with decoration and too ornamental. In 1945 René Herbst was elected chairman of the UAM. The UAM organized exhibitions in Paris under the heading of “Les Formes Utiles” (Utilitarian Forms).
cited from René Herbst.com
Sandows is French for the rubber strips or bungees that form the seating and back of the chair.
Recently, at a Paris auction of Christie’s this Sandows Chair that reportedly belonged to Rene Herbst own collection was sold for € 4,375.