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.