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Chair, model no. 21. Designed 1932....
Manufactured by Artek, Finland and retailed by New Furniture, Inc/Artek-Pascoe, ca. 1938-47.
Molded laminated birch and birch plywood
This is a rare example of the model to have been made for the American market in the 1930s, having previously been in the collection of the Hugh Stubbins House, Lexington, MA. It dates to the early years of distribution in the USA, when Laurance Rockefeller set up a firm to handle the American market in conjunction with the 1938 Aalto exhibition at MoMA. Most of the early American owners of this model seem to have been architects who were affiliated with either MoMA or Harvard/MIT. Hugh Stubbins, who studied with Walter Gropius and succeeded him as department chair at Harvard, almost certainly knew Aalto in the 1940s. I prefer this model over its Paimio Sanitorium prototype, which was an awkward fusion of bent ply and tubular steel.
Alvar Aalto, Finland, 1931
Paimio Chair, 1931-1932. Manufactured by Oy Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Ab, Turku, Finland. Bent plywood, bent laminated birch, and solid birch....
A textbook case of gesamtkunstwerk, Aalto’s chair designs for the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanitorium have achieved renown independent from their original association. This superb early example dates to the years immediately following the completion of Paimio, when the factory began producing large quantities of Aalto’s designs for export. However, the extraordinary (and pricey) curly birch veneer, the lack of an export tag (such as Finmar) and the provenance suggest that this chair never left Finland until it was sold to a New York collector fifteen years ago. Also notable is the rough-cut nature of the openwork slits on the back. The original chairs in Paimio lack these cuts, and Christopher Wilk has suggested that they were introduced during early mass production for either aesthetic reasons or to help bend the tight plywood curve over the top of the back. Later examples produced by Artek incorporate the cuts into the molding process, and therefore they are much more precise in their detailing.