Bruno Mathsson


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Alvar Aalto (1898—1976) Finnish architect and designer

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Mathsson was a notable Swedish architect and designer, renowned for his laminated bentwood furniture. He came from a cabinetmaking background and was apprentice in the family workshop from 1923 to 1931 and began designing his own furniture. He became interested in the Modernist aesthetic, bolstered by the functional ethos that pervaded the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition. His early laminated furniture included the Working Chair of 1934 (renamed Eva in 1978), which was designed to accommodate the human body comfortably by means of a contoured bentwood frame with webbing in cloth or leather. It was shown with other of his designs in a one‐person show at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg in 1936. His work had a strongly organic feel and makes an interesting contrast to the bentwood furniture designs of Alvar Aalto in Finland and Breuer's experiments in laminated plywood for the Isokon Furniture Company in Britain. Although Matthsson's furniture was favourably reviewed by the critics, manufacturers were less enthusiastic, resulting in its production by the family business, Firma Karl Mathsson. Mathsson furniture was also exhibited at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition and the New York World's Fair of 1939. Other notable furniture designs from the first half of his career included the Pernilla lounge chair and footstool of 1944, essentially an armed version of the earlier Working Chair design, again using an elegantly contoured frame with webbed body support. He visited the USA in 1948 and 1949 and for a number of years focused his attention on architectural designs for modern houses with large plate‐glass windows. He took over management of the family furniture‐making company in 1957, a time when his designs attracted considerable international interest, epitomizing what became known as ‘Swedish Modern’. From the early 1960s he worked with the Danish mathematician inventor Piet Hein on the elegant steel‐framed Superellipsis table of 1964, produced by Fritz Hansen. In 1966 he designed the Jetson office chair of 1966, which was produced by Dux Industrier (which later took over the Mathsson firm in 1978). Later designs included computer workstations in the 1980s when he also established the Mathsson Foundation for the Support of Scandinavian Designers (1983).

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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