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Child's chair

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (Dutch, 1888–1964)

c. 1920

Medium deal and original leather Measurements H: 35 3/8 x W: 17 x D: 17 1/4 in. (89.85 x 43.2 x 43.81 cm) Credit Fellows Fund Accession Number 90.20 Location Gallery 21, Bruce Galleries

Narrative

Gerrit Rietveld left school at the age of twelve to be apprenticed to his father, a furniture maker in Utrecht. In 1911 Rietveld established his own cabinetry shop, but little is known about his production before 1918, when Gerard van de Groenekan became his assistant. It was during these years that Rietveld also attended evening classes in architecture. In 1929 he began an architectural practice, while Groenekan continued the furniture production. Van de Groenekan later recalled that Rietveld "loved to pick up a plane and help me out, regretting that he did not have more time to practice his original profession of cabinetmaker." This child's chair was probably made around 1920, when Rietveld was making the transition to practicing architecture. Its original owner was a classics teacher and a personal friend of Rietveld. The chair is made of thirteen square-section lengths of wood whose edges have been rounded for a child's comfort. Two rectangular pieces of wood form the arms. A footrest, made of a narrow slat attached by four nails, may be a slightly later addition: the rest of the chair is held together by wooden dowels. The strong lines of the chair, though softened by the leather seat and back, reflect the thinking of De Stijl (The Style), a group of idealistic artists and architects founded in 1917 in response to the horrors of World War I. De Stijl's search for a visual equivalent to spiritual and philosophical purity, in which vertical and horizontal lines became synonymous with universal harmony, led to a new and abstract style. Rietveld joined De Stijl in 1919, and today, he and the painter Mondrian are regarded as its most distinctive and distinguished practitioners.