Metz & Co.

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(established c.1800)

This retail company is well known for its enlightened design policy and close working relationship with designers. Additionally, for about 50 years, commencing shortly before the First World War, Metz & Co. also manufactured a number of products for sale in their store. Although the firm's roots can be traced back to Samuel Metz's 18th‐century Amsterdam fabric shop, it was not until c.1900 that a marked shift of policy was initiated. This was engendered by the arrival of a new owner/director Joseph De Leeuw who, in 1902, gained the agency rights to sell goods from the celebrated London department store, Liberty & Co. These were characterized by an Arts and Crafts philosophy and included textiles and the applied arts, a range increased after the First World War by French, Austrian, and Dutch goods. In 1918 Metz went into furniture production, commissioning Paul Bromberg to design furniture and offer advice on interior design, a post taken over by furniture designer W. Penaat in 1924. Metz was also active in textile design, commissioning a number of foreign designers, including Sonia Delaunay. By the early 1930s Metz products took on a markedly Modernist flavour, enthusiastically supported by De Leeuw who had become a member of the Nederlandische Bond voor Kunst in Industrie (BKI). He commissioned avant‐garde furniture from the De Stijl architect‐designer Gerrit Rietveld and carpets by his fellow De Stijl member, the painter Bart Van Der Leck, both of whom he had met. In 1933 Rietveld was commissioned to design a Modernist cupola on the roof of the predominantly 19th‐century store, making an ideal showroom for Modernist designs that were seen to advantage in the strong light that permeated the heavily glazed structure. He also designed a new store‐front in 1938. In fact, Rietveld's Zig‐Zag chair (1934) and Crate chair (1935) were manufactured exclusively for Metz & Co., the company showing its extensive awareness of international developments by being the first company in Holland to market designs by Alvar Aalto. It also organized exhibitions, including one in 1932 devoted to tubular steel furniture with pieces by Mies Van Der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Other modern furniture was commissioned from J. J. P. Oud, Mart Stam, and Djo Bourgeois. After the Second World War the company continued to market well‐designed goods such as those produced by De Ploeg. In 1973 Metz was taken over by Liberty & Co., whose goods had been marketed by them just over 70 years earlier.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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