Sunday, September 21, 2008
Gebruder Thonet, or Thonet Brothers opened their doors for business in 1853. The business was based Michael Thonet's newly developed technology of bending wood. Steaming wood until it was pliable allowed Thonet to create pieces that were lightweight and graceful. He received a patent for his new process in 1856 and produced many styles with his five sons. When the patent expired in 1869 new competitors arrived on the scene mimicking the Thonet style and sometimes flat out copying their designs. Nevertheless, by 1900 Gebruder Thonet had 52 factories in operation across Europe, and one in New York. Thonet's graceful curves had become his trademark and in Europe and America people clamored for his chairs since they were so refined and inexpensive.
Eileen Gray later produced furniture with slightly less pronounced curves for a very different effect. Gray's "Canoe Sofa" made for Suzanne Talbot features smooth swoops and arcs, but none of the dramatic curls so prevalent in Thonet's chairs. Time marks their works as different in both style and materials. Gray used silver leaf and upholstery to embellish her work where Thonet allowed the natural wood and cane to speak for themselves. Despite the separation of time, style and material, the underlying inspiration is the same. Both have appreciation for the simple arcing line of a curved line.