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5 post-war furniture designers to know about

Some of the most influential shapers of the post-war world from Italy, California, Brazil and beyond, as offered in our First Open | Home sale in New York in September 2016

  • 1
  • Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof (1916-2009), A Rocking Chair, 1980. Walnut, ebony. 45 in (114.3 cm) high. This work was offered in First Open  Home on 27 September 2016 at Christies in New York and sold for $16,250

Sam Maloof (1916-2009), A Rocking Chair, 1980. Walnut, ebony. 45 in (114.3 cm) high. This work was offered in First Open | Home on 27 September 2016 at Christie's in New York and sold for $16,250

Sam Maloof (1916-2009), the self-taught California woodworker and furniture-maker, designed and made more than 5,000 pieces in his studio in Alta Loma. Utilising both traditional and modern styles, Maloof created furniture that blended beauty and utility. His work is part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His signature rocking chair, with its sensuous, sculptural quality, is also part of the White House Collection of American Crafts after a chair was acquired by Ronald Reagan.

  • 2
  • Piero Fornasetti

Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988), A four-panel Battaglia NavaleLibri folding screen, designed circa 1954. This example likely 1950s, lithographically printed wood, on casters. Each panel 53 in (134.5 cm) high, 13¾ in (34.9 cm) wide, 1¼ in (3.2 cm) deep. This work was offered in First Open  Home on 27 September 2016 at Christies in New York

Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988), A four-panel 'Battaglia Navale/Libri' folding screen, designed circa 1954. This example likely 1950s, lithographically printed wood, on casters. Each panel 53 in (134.5 cm) high, 13¾ in (34.9 cm) wide, 1¼ in (3.2 cm) deep. This work was offered in First Open | Home on 27 September 2016 at Christie's in New York

The work of Milanese artist Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) is difficult to place into one artistic category. At once a painter, sculptor, designer, inventor and interior decorator, Fornasetti emblazoned scenes from his imagination on everything from neckties, plates and chairs to bathtubs, bicycles, chandeliers and bathroom tiles. His creations embodied a post-war mentality of ‘anything goes’. Among his favourite motifs are the façades of neoclassical buildings, various celestial and astrological symbols, and the often disguised visage of Italian opera singer Liza Cavalieri. Original pieces date back to the early 1950s, but some designs have been reissued in various editions by Fornasetti’s son, Barnaba Fornasetti.

  • 3
  • The Campana brothers

Fernando (b. 1961) and Humberto (b. 1953) Campana, Comoda Capacho, a chest of drawers, 2014. Artist proof, coconut fibre, louro frejó veneer. 45¼ in (115 cm) high, 51⅛ in (130 cm) wide, 20 in (50.7 cm) deep. This work was offered in First Open  Home on 27 September 2016 at Christies in New York and sold for $8,125

Fernando (b. 1961) and Humberto (b. 1953) Campana, Comoda Capacho, a chest of drawers, 2014. Artist proof, coconut fibre, louro frejó veneer. 45¼ in (115 cm) high, 51⅛ in (130 cm) wide, 20 in (50.7 cm) deep. This work was offered in First Open | Home on 27 September 2016 at Christie's in New York and sold for $8,125

Fernando (b. 1961) and Humberto (b. 1953) Campana, Vitoria Regia stool, 2002. Produced by Carpenters Workshop Gallery, number two from an edition of eight, carpet, rubber, eva, fabric, tubular stainless steel. 21 in (53.3 cm) high, 66 in (167.7 cm) diameter. This work was offered in First Open  Home on 27 September 2016 at Christies in New York and sold for $5,250

Fernando (b. 1961) and Humberto (b. 1953) Campana, Vitoria Regia stool, 2002. Produced by Carpenter's Workshop Gallery, number two from an edition of eight, carpet, rubber, eva, fabric, tubular stainless steel. 21 in (53.3 cm) high, 66 in (167.7 cm) diameter. This work was offered in First Open | Home on 27 September 2016 at Christie's in New York and sold for $5,250

Designers Fernando and Humberto Campana grew up in a suburb of São Paulo bordering the Brazilian jungle in the 1960s. The brothers’ relationship with nature and with the teeming metropolis influenced the way they would later approach their vibrant designs. Their work (which includes furniture, apparel and industrial design) addresses such tensions as technology vs. craft, natural vs. synthetic, modern vs. ancient. They often use recycled or discarded materials or draw inspiration from humble sources such as storm drains, rag dolls or invasive vines.

  • 4
  • Gaetano Pesce

Gaetano Pesce (b. 1939), an Up-5 Donna armchair and Up-6 Donna ottoman, circa 1969. Manufactured by C & B Italia, Como, polyurethane foam, fabric upholstery. Chair 39 in (99 cm) high. Ottoman 23 in (58.5 cm) high. This work was offered in First Open  Home on 27 September 2016 at Christies in New York

Gaetano Pesce (b. 1939), an Up-5 Donna armchair and Up-6 Donna ottoman, circa 1969. Manufactured by C & B Italia, Como, polyurethane foam, fabric upholstery. Chair: 39 in (99 cm) high. Ottoman: 23 in (58.5 cm) high. This work was offered in First Open | Home on 27 September 2016 at Christie's in New York

Italian architect Gaetano Pesce (b. 1939) made his first foray into furniture design with the incredibly successful ‘Up’ series in 1969. A supporter of the Radical Design movement of the late 1960s, Pesce sought to challenge the concept of ‘Good Design’ which he believed had been diluted for mass consumption. Each chair in the ‘Up’ series is made of upholstered polyurethane foam which was vacuum-pressed into an envelope for packaging. Once opened, the chair dramatically swelled to life, exhibiting voluptuous anthropomorphic curves. 

Full of experimentation and irony, Pesce’s designs express his belief that modernism is ‘less a style’ than a ‘creative response’ to the present. He continues to work in various disciplines, constantly exploring new materials and unconventional shapes, and has works in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pompidou Centre and the Vitra Design Museum.

  • 5
  • Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), Model for the Fountain at the Philadelphia Civic Center, circa 1967. Welded phosphorous bronze. 4½ in (11.5 cm) high, 9½ in (24 cm) wide, 8¼ in (21 cm) deep. This work was offered in First Open  Home on 27 September 2016 at Christies in New York and sold for $16,250

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), Model for the Fountain at the Philadelphia Civic Center, circa 1967. Welded phosphorous bronze. 4½ in (11.5 cm) high, 9½ in (24 cm) wide, 8¼ in (21 cm) deep. This work was offered in First Open | Home on 27 September 2016 at Christie's in New York and sold for $16,250

As a sculptor, furniture and jewellery designer, graphic artist and metalsmith, Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was a gifted cross-disciplinary artist. Perhaps most widely known for his wire furniture collection for Knoll introduced in 1952 which included his famous Diamond chair, Bertoia also produced more than 50 commissioned public sculptures. At once strong yet delicate, his works explore the tension between their intricate, precise forms and the powerful, natural metal materials used in their construction.