The influential Art Nouveau artist Richard Riemerschmid (1868–1957) searched for beauty in ordinary things, taking exception to the overloaded ornamental designs of his day. This chair, created for a competition for inexpensive home decor, clearly betrays his turn toward a groundbreaking style, which led to machine-produced furniture and inaugurated the design ideals of the German Werkbund.
The chair, assembled out of planks and two-by-fours, was part of a living room furniture ensemble designed by Richard Riemerschmid in 1900 for a contest for affordable domestic furniture. The challenge was to create a complete set of living room furnishings fitting into sixteen square meters, which was not only of high design quality but, costing no more than 350 marks, was also affordable for people with limited financial means. Riemerschmid won first prize with his simple, easy-to-produce furniture. The armchair illustrates his attempt to harness ideas from folk art for his furniture style. The chair’s form is more rustic than filigree; a continuous plank with a sawn-out semicircle, two curves, and a grip hole form both the backrest and the closely spaced back legs. Even though the triangular footprint and the overall design principle are by no means Riemerschmid’s own invention but actually emulate a design by the English Arts and Crafts artist George Walton (1867–1933), Riemerschmid, cofounder of the German Werkbund (1907), didn’t just randomly adopt this rational construction method. Instead, the principle of consistently developing his designs based on the construction of a piece led to Riemerschmid’s actual achievements over the following years: with the program of machine-made furniture he launched in 1905, the Munich designer became one of the pioneers of the Ikea principle behind today’s production methods. (Franziska Müller-Reissmann)