Modernist Designers Series / Eva Zeisel

This month, we’re introducing a Hungarian-American designer whose incredible 105-year life took her through several countries, a World War, and into the history books of modern design.

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Eva Zeisel (1906-2011)
United States (born in Hungary)
Designer, Ceramicist

Though born to a wealthy Hungarian Jewish family, Eva Zeisel ignored the leisurely callings of her status and immersed herself in the laborious role of ceramicist’s apprentice.

After graduating as a journeyman, Zeisel spent several years in Germany, designing modern-inspired ceramic dinnerware, vases, and tea sets. In 1935, she moved to Soviet Russia to assume the role of director of the Soviet china and glass industry.

In 1937, a series of events paused her work. First, she was falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Joseph Stalin and was imprisoned for 16 months in Russia. Then, when she was finally released and deported to Vienna, the Nazis invaded; she and her husband fled to the U.S.

The couple arrived in New York, and Zeisel’s career took off over the following years. She taught at the Pratt Institute, created a ceramics line for Sears, and was commissioned to create a line of modern ceramics for the Museum of Modern Art.

Town and Country Salt and Pepper Shakers, MoMA, 1945 ( source )

Town and Country Salt and Pepper Shakers, MoMA, 1945 (source)

Hallcraft/Tomorrow’s Classic Sauce Boat with Ladle, MoMA, 1949-50 ( source )

Hallcraft/Tomorrow’s Classic Sauce Boat with Ladle, MoMA, 1949-50 (source)

In her more than 75-year career, Zeisel was famous for pushing boundaries. Although her ceramics included the clean lines and simplicity of modernism, she challenged these limitations with designs inspired by nature, the human form, relationships, and her own playful approach to life.

That Zeisel’s pieces were featured in the Museum of Modern Art and mass produced for the general public is a tribute to her skill in creating beautiful and functional designs.

More Modern Designs by Eva Zeisel

Large Biomorphic Silver Platter designed for Nambé, 1952 ( source )

Large Biomorphic Silver Platter designed for Nambé, 1952 (source)

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Tea Pot, German Modernist, 1929 ( source )

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Tea Pot, German Modernist, 1929 (source)

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Coffee Set, German Modernist, 1929 ( source )

Eva Zeisel Schramberg Coffee Set, German Modernist, 1929 (source)

Serving set designed for KleinReid, 1999 ( source )

Serving set designed for KleinReid, 1999 (source)

Pitchers, 1946-1960 ( source )

Pitchers, 1946-1960 (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in June…

In the meantime, tell us your favorite modern designer in the comments below!

Modernist Designers Series / Poul Kjærholm

This month’s modern designer hails from Denmark, a country famous for producing many of the biggest names in the Modernist movement.

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Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980)
Denmark
Designer

Poul Kjærholm is most known for bringing the use of steel into modern design, but surprisingly, his career started as a carpenter’s apprentice. It wasn’t until the early 1950s that Kjærholm studied under renowned designer Hans Wegner and Jørn Utzon (an industrial designer) at Copenhagen’s School of Arts and Crafts.

In the years that followed, Kjærholm designed chairs and tables for E. Kold Christensen and Fritz Hansen, and he earned several design awards along the way. He once said that his design philosophy came, not from expressing his own personality, but from expressing the personality of the materials.

By combining natural materials like wood and leather with his characteristic touch of steel piping, he created some of the most innovative furniture designs of the era. The PK22 and PK24 lounge chair designs are his most famous.

PK22 lounge chair, 1960 ( source )

PK22 lounge chair, 1960 (source)

PK24 lounge chair ( source )

PK24 lounge chair (source)

In addition to furniture design, Kjærholm also spent many years teaching at his alma mater, the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, and the Design Institute. Nevertheless, he continued to design chairs until his death in 1980.

More Modern Designs from Poul Kjærholm

PK9 Chair ( source )

PK9 Chair (source)

PK61 Coffee Table in Steel and Glass E. Kold Christensen Denmark ( source )

PK61 Coffee Table in Steel and Glass E. Kold Christensen Denmark (source)

PK71 Nesting tables for E. Kold Christensen ( source )

PK71 Nesting tables for E. Kold Christensen (source)

PK11 chair design for E. Kold Christensen, 1957 ( source )

PK11 chair design for E. Kold Christensen, 1957 (source)

“Holscher” chair with welded steel tube frame ( source )

“Holscher” chair with welded steel tube frame (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in May…

In the meantime, tell us about your favorite modern designer in the comments below!

Modernist Designers Series / Jacques Adnet

For our third modernist designer to know, we’re taking you into the heart of French art, culture, and history: Paris.

If you missed February’s featured designer, read here!

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Jacques Adnet (1900-1984)
France
Architect, Designer

Jacques Adnet and his twin brother, Jean, received their artistic education at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1916.

Following graduation, the twins founded their own design firm, Jean & Jacques Adnet, where they would work together for the next four years.

During this period, Adnet’s work was largely inspired by the popular Art Deco style of the early era. He used it to update traditional furniture in new ways and placed heavy emphasis on materials like leather, metals, mirror, and woods.

In 1928, the brothers’ paths took different directions when Jacques Adnet accepted a directorship at the design firm La Compagnie des Arts Français. It was here that his style began to shift towards the work he is most famous for…

He continued to use luxurious materials and to reinvent traditional forms, but he began to embrace the svelte lines and shapes of modernist design.

Campaign chair and ottoman, 1940s  (   source   )

Campaign chair and ottoman, 1940s (source)

Lounge chairs, 1950  (   source   )

Lounge chairs, 1950 (source)

Coffee table with mirror, 1930s  (   source   )

Coffee table with mirror, 1930s (source)

His unique modern style continued into the 1940s, when Hermès commissioned Adnet for nearly a decade’s worth of furniture designs. Adnet’s most famous pieces include the leather mirror, Circulaire, and his table lamp, Quadro VII, which was produced in Italy.

Circulaire, round leather mirrors, 1950  (   source   )

Circulaire, round leather mirrors, 1950 (source)

Quadro VII Lamp, 1929  (   source   )

Quadro VII Lamp, 1929 (source)

Adnet also renovated and designed several high-profile interiors in the 1940s and 50s, including French President Vincent Auriol’s private apartments, Paris’s UNESCO headquarters, and several luxury ocean liners.

When La Compagnie des Arts Français closed in 1959, he resumed his work as an art school director.

More Modern Designs by Jacques Adnet

Hand-stitched leather lounge chairs, 1950s-1960s  (   source   )

Hand-stitched leather lounge chairs, 1950s-1960s (source)

Leather magazine holder designed for Hermès  (   source   )

Leather magazine holder designed for Hermès (source)

Stitched leather desk, 1950s  (   source   )

Stitched leather desk, 1950s (source)

Leather table, 1950s  (   source   )

Leather table, 1950s (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in April…

In the meantime, tell us your favorite modern designer in the comments below!

Modernist Designers Series / Clara Porset

Our featured designer for February played a strong role in expanding modernist design beyond Europe. After being exiled from her native country, she adopted a new home and forever changed the way it would see design. We had the privilege of seeing her work in person on a recent trip to Mexico City!

If you missed January’s designer, read here.

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Clara Porset (1895-1981)
Mexico (born in Cuba)
Designer

Clara Porset is credited for revolutionizing modern design in Mexico, though she didn’t start there.

Born in Cuba to a wealthy family, Porset studied at Columbia University’s School of Fine Arts, the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, as well as the Sorbonne, the Louvre, and Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

The latter is where she met Josef Albers, the former Bauhaus designer and educator famous for introducing color theory to modern design. Porset’s time with Albers would largely influence the modern forms of her future designs.

In the early 1930s, Porset attempted to return to Cuba to teach and design, but her support of the Cuban resistance led to political exile. She finally landed in Mexico, where she would spend the rest of her career and life.

Totonaca Suite, Low Chair, 1959  (   source   )

Totonaca Suite, Low Chair, 1959 (source)

To her great credit, Porset embraced Mexico’s culture and fused it with her work. She traveled around the country, soaking up its craft traditions, art, and culture. When she designed furniture, she kept the existing forms and edited out the ornate details, creating a simplified, modern take on tradition.

Her most famous designs were her new interpretations of Mexico’s butaque chair, a low, curving lounge chair with history dating back to Spanish rule.

Butaque Lounge Chair, 1940s  (   source   )

Butaque Lounge Chair, 1940s (source)

Butaque Lounge Chair, 1950  (   source   )

Butaque Lounge Chair, 1950 (source)

Butaque Lounge Chair, 1950s  (   source   )

Butaque Lounge Chair, 1950s (source)

Porset won many design awards within Mexico and received recognition from MoMA’s Organic Design for Home Furnishing contest in 1940. Several renowned architects of the age embraced her work as well, including Luis Barragán. Porset worked with Barragán personally to furnish his own home and many of his architectural projects. We’ll be sharing photos of their collaboration on the blog in the future, so stay tuned!

Porset’s lasting contribution to modern design was not only to spread it to Mexico, but also to give it a new flavor, one representative of the Mexican people themselves.


More Modern Designs by Clara Porset

Totonaca Suite, 3-Seat Sofa, 1959  (   source   )

Totonaca Suite, 3-Seat Sofa, 1959 (source)

High Armchairs  (   source   )

High Armchairs (source)

Woven Rush Folding Screen, 1950s  (   source   )

Woven Rush Folding Screen, 1950s (source)

Chairs in mahogany and cotton, 1950s  (   source   )

Chairs in mahogany and cotton, 1950s (source)

DM Nacional Desk, 1950s  (   source   )

DM Nacional Desk, 1950s (source)

Lounge chairs, 1950s  (   source   )

Lounge chairs, 1950s (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in March…

In the meantime, tell us your favorite modern designer in the comments below!

Modernist Designers Series / Gio Ponti

Can you believe it’s been nearly 70-80 years since the Modernist movement started? It was around the 1940s that designers and architects first embraced this style, but it wasn’t called “modernism” just yet.

Design’s shift toward clean lines, minimalism, and natural materiality took hold in interiors, furniture, ceramics, and architecture. Although each designer had his or her own unique approach, these were the features that characterized modern design over the following thirty years.

This year, we’re sharing twelve of the top masters behind this major movement — one for every month of 2019. First up:

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Giovanni (Gio) Ponti (1891-1979)
Italy
Architect, Designer, Artist

Gio Ponti was born in Milan in the late 1800s and is credited as being the most influential Italian designer of his time. Although he studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, his professional career began as the artistic director of the ceramics company, Richard Ginori.

There, his initial work was influenced by classicism until 1925, when he transitioned to the Art Deco and Modernist styles.

In these years, Ponti coined “forma finita,” his theory that a design is complete when nothing can be added or taken away. You can see evidence of this concept in his furniture lines, where vestiges of Art Deco’s geometric forms pave the way for modern simplicity. The resulting creative “lightness” of design is uniquely Ponti.

His other notable accomplishments include founding the still-circulating architecture and design magazine Domus in 1928, as well as designing the iconic Pirelli Tower in Milan. He is still widely revered in the industry today — we saw his work on exhibit in Paris just last November!

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Superleggera chair design for Cassina, 1957

Superleggera chair design for Cassina, 1957

Bureau Giordano Chiesa, 1953

Bureau Giordano Chiesa, 1953

Console collaboration, Gio Ponti and Paolo de Poli, 1942

Console collaboration, Gio Ponti and Paolo de Poli, 1942

Ocean Liner Armchair, Heritage Collection, 1951

Ocean Liner Armchair, Heritage Collection, 1951

Dezza armchair, 1965  (   source   )

Dezza armchair, 1965 (source)

Keep an eye out for our next featured designer in February…

In the meantime, tell us your favorite modernist designer in the comments below!