Certain names are synonymous with 20th Century design and architecture: Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright among them. Less well known is the name Charlotte Perriand, but she was admitted to their ranks in the 1920's, when she designed tubular-steel chairs with Le Corbusier.
I tend to rattle off these dates and names with little mindfulness to the time that has past. We're talking about nearly 100 years and yet these designs are still modern and, even now, it's easy to imagine how revolutionary such designs seemed to a public used to heavy and fussy furniture.
"That the design of their now-famous furniture was for many years attributed to Le Corbusier alone, that most of her architectural projects never made it past the drawing board, that her far-ranging commissions defied easy classification, that her most significant projects are either gone or off the beaten path: all this only contributed to the enigma" - Holly Brubach, NYT
Enigma? Perhaps not the word I would have chosen. We've seen this before: Eileen Gray, for example. However, in 2005, the Pompidou Centre held a retrospective of Perriand's work. It included her photography, much of which had not been seen before, and exposed how she used photographs as a kind of alternative to a sketchbook, finding inspiration in forms that she would later apply to her designs.
Perriand not only located beauty and ingenuity in the world around her but assimilated their examples when they were useful to her. - ibid.
Perriand's true genius - perhaps epitomized in the famous photograph of reclined in her chaise longue, was in perceiving the dialogue engineering could enjoy with natural environments and the people who inhabit them.
We could attribute this, perhaps to Perriand's rural background. She later reverted to designing more rustic, hand-carved pieces, in that way stretching the concept of Modernism and modernist spaces. She brought softness into the sometimes cold vision of the Modernists, making it less aloof, more livable, perhaps, or maybe simply reconciling and respecting the past while pushing forward to the future.
My favourite picture of her is the one above. She seems exultant.
Books & links:
Charlotte Perriand by Elisabeth Vedrenne
Charlotte Perriand: Photography: A Wide-Angle Eye by Jacques Barsac, Alfred Paquement, Gilles Chazal and Francois Cheval
Charlotte Perriand: Objects and Furniture Design by Sandra Dachs, Patricia De Muga and Laura Hintze
Image credits / sources:
1. Charlotte Perriand on the B306 Chaise Longue, 1928 Design: Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, Edouard Jeanneret, via
2. Le Corbusier puts a plate behind the head of Charlotte Perriand to resemble a halo, 1928 by Pierre Jeanneret, via
3. Charlotte Perriand, 1930, via