Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928), Scotland, Koloman Moser (1868 -1918) and Josef Hoffmann (1870 – 1956), both from Austria, were some of the most innovative designers and architects of the Art Nouveau period.
Their chair designs showed geometric forms and monochrome colour palettes. Made by hand in small quantities the chairs were only affordable for wealthy bohemians. Exceptions were special commissions such as for the Glasgow tearooms and Viennese coffee houses.
High-backed Chair for Ingram Street Tea Rooms, 1900
In his late 20s Charles Rennie Mackintosh met a woman who enormously influenced his professional life: Miss Catherine Cranston. She was a local Glasgow businesswoman, who came up with the idea of ‘art tearooms’. She asked Mackintosh to assist her architect on her new premises in Buchanan Street in Glasgow town centre. The success of this new venture created a long-lasting relationship between the client and designer. In 1900 he did the interior of the white dining room for the Ingram Street tearoom and designed the High-backed Chair to contrast with the white walls of this space. In 1903 he was commissioned to design all interior fittings and the external layout for the Willow Tearooms in Sauchiehall Street, another premise of Catherine Cranston.
Armchair for the Purkersdorf Sanatorium, 1902
Furniture and graphic designer Koloman Moser was one of the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte, the influential craft workshop founded in Vienna in 1903. His armchair reflected the geometrical motifs and monochrome palette typical for the Wiener Werkstätte. The armchair – considered as audacious in style by the Austrians – was designed for the foyer of the Purkersdorf Sanatorium of which Josef Hoffmann was the architect. Moser’s armchairs were arranged in pairs around elegant octagonal tables.
Cabaret Fledermaus Chair, 1905-1906
While visiting England in 1902, Josef Hoffmann got to know Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was impressed by the expressive, geometric style of his furniture. A year later, together with Koloman Moser and industrialist Fritz Wärndorfer, he established the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop), a progressive alliance of artists and designers. Hoffmann produced a large number of designs for the Vienna Workshop, for example the Sitzmaschine whose geometric lines and cubic form has become a prototype for contemporary designer chairs.
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Featured image: Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow