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    Sale 7620

    20th Century Decorative Art & Design

    28 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 57

    SIR BASIL SPENCE (1907-1976)


    Price Realised  


    SIR BASIL SPENCE (1907-1976)
    produced by H. Morris & Co., for exhibition at the Enterprise Scotland Exhibition, Glasgow, 1949, laminated wood, the chairs with rexene upholstery, comprising of dining table, sideboard (adapted), and a set of six armchairs
    table - 28¼ in. (72 cm.) high; 65¼ in. (166 cm.) wide; 35 in. (89 cm.) deep
    sideboard - 37 in. (94 cm.) high; 64 in. (163 cm.) wide; 12 in. (30.5 cm.) deep
    chairs - 34 in. (86 cm.) high; 21½ in. (54 cm.) wide; 19¾ in. (50.5 cm.) deep
    chairs with inset aluminium Morris of Glasgow label to seat rail (8)

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    Subsequent to his early training in India with Edwin Lutyens, Basil Spence matured as one of the most significant Post-War British architects of the Twentieth Century, operating in a highly distinctive manner that came to define the monumental style of contemporary British architecture. Noted commissions include Sussex University (1962), Glasgow Airport (1966), and Coventry Cathedral (1954-1962), for which he received a knighthood. A wartime member of the Camouflage Development Unit of the British Army, Spence's early Post-War career included the position of consultant architect for the influential 1946 Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition Britain Can Make It, and was designer of the Sea & Ships Pavillion at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

    Commissioned in 1947 by Neil Morris of the manufacturer Morris of Glasgow to collaborate on a range of furniture, Spence created the present suite. Awarded a diploma by the Council of Industrial Design in January 1949, the suite was exhibited at the Glasgow Today and Tomorrow in March, where it was commended, and an additional example of the armchair commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In September the suite was transferred to the Scottish Industries Exhibition.

    The suite is remarkable for its innovative machine construction, which is dependent entirely upon the complex shaping of laminated timbers. As a wartime manufacturer of the all-wood aircraft the Mosquito and the Hurricane, Morris of Glasgow were unique in their ability to provide the technical expertise required to create the furnishings. The suite is acknowledged as a landmark in immediate Post-War British furniture design. Examples of the chair have been in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, since 1949, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, since 1951.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Sir Basil Spence, thence by descent


    Studio Yearbook of Decorative Art, 1949, p. VIII (illustrated)
    David Joel, The Adventure of British Furniture 1981-1951, London, 1953, p. 223 (illustrated)
    Rayner & Chamberlain with the Fine Art Society, Austerity to Affluence: British Art & Design 1945-1962, London, 1997, p. 22, cat. no. F27 (another example of chair illustrated)
    Pauline Megson, Operation Plywood: Morris of Glasgow from 1932 to 1952, unpublished thesis, 1998


    Glasgow Today & Tomorrow, Glasgow, March 1949
    Enterprise Scotland, Glasgow, September 1949
    Back to the Future: Sir Basil Spence (1907-1976), Celebration of a Modern Architect, Dean Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 19th October 2007 - 10th February 2008