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executed by Gerard van de Groenekan, Utrecht, the Netherlands
tubular metal, painted plywood, painted beech
with two paper labels 'g.rietveld stuhl 1927' and ch.j.f.karsten churchill-laan 158 amsterdam-holland
36 x 31 x 23 in. (91.5 x 78.6 x 58.5 cm) 
Charles J.F. Karsten, Amsterdam, acquired directly from the designer, 1927
Thence by descent in the family, 1979-1988
Barry Friedman, New York
Sotheby's New York, “The Collection of Barry Friedman, Ltd.”, 19 November 1992, lot 152
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M. Küper, Gerrit Th. Rietveld 1888-1964:The Complete Works, Utrecht, 1992 pp. 117-118
Post lot text
This lot is accompanied by a letter from G.A. van de Groenekan confirming the chair’s production date and original provenance.

Rietveld’s designs for ‘Beugelstoele’, or ‘Frame Chairs’, can be sanctioned as an important pivot in the architect’s quest for reductive rationalism in his furniture designs, linking the narrative that was initiated with his ‘Red Blue’ open armchairs of 1919, with the calligraphic minimalism of the Zig-Zag chairs of 1932.
In the case of the present example, a rare and early high-back armchair variant, the conceptual heritage of the ‘Red Blue’ chairs is at its most literal. However, whilst the seating posture and the overall proportions acknowledge those precedents almost exactly, the dynamics of both composition and materials — now suppressed to the point of invisibility — reveal advance towards sophisticated abstraction.
The ‘Red Blue’ chairs justified Rietveld’s objective to substitute structure for mass, and were enhanced by an ambient, emotive use of colour. However they relied upon artisanal manufacture, and were therefore irreconcilable with Rietveld’s aspirations towards serial-production furniture. By the late 1920s Rietveld had been exposed to the technological advances in furniture design emanating from Germany, primarily through the Bauhaus. These included industrialised tubular steel frames, bolted construction, and the evolving use of plywood to create separate seat and back elements. Through the 1927 Wiessenhofsiedlung exhibition in Stuttgart, Rietveld discovered further encouragement to democratise his furniture through serial production.
The earliest prototypes of the ‘Beugelstoel’ applied a brittle fibreboard seat to an overlapping steel rod frame. The present example is an early iteration of the final design, now featuring a robust one-piece plywood seat secured to paired continuous-line frames, finished in matte aluminium paint. The insertion of pronounced bolts to fix the components underlined the form’s functionalist qualities. The chair promoted the use of a one-piece ergonomically contoured plywood seat, several years ahead of those later developed by Alvar Aalto. The earliest examples of the ‘Beugelstoel’, including the present example, were crafted by Rietveld’s faithful master cabinetmaker van de Groenekan, and were finished in either black or white. Employing between three to five basic components per chair, the model was suitable for serial production, and for adaptation into dining or lounge versions, with or without arms. Production and retail was subsequently assumed by Metz & Co. in Amsterdam, and versions were offered with a variety of brightly coloured finishes.
The revolutionary, sculptural and technical qualities of Rietveld’s furniture do not diminish with time, even a century later. Contextualising the ‘Beugelstoel’ to the late 1920s, it remains challenging to imagine society’s willingness to accept such reductive, minimalist structures. Despite this, the model was popular enough to remain in production with Metz until at least the early 1930s. Beyond the unique technical and aesthetic innovations of the design, Rietveld’s real triumph with the ‘Beugelstoel’ was to deliver a functionalist, industrialised product that was now democratised as aspirational and stylish concept.
The present ‘Beugelstoel’ is a scarce and early configuration, and rare to retain original white lacquered finish. In acknowledgement of these qualities, this chair was selected for inclusion in the early ‘De Stijl’ touring retrospective, which opened during Rietveld’s lifetime, in May 1964. It is one of several important Rietveld designs to benefit from original provenance to the Amsterdam architect, artist and sculptor Charles J. F. Karsten (1904-1979).

- Simon Andrews, Independent design expert, Andrews Art Advisory

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Alexander Heminway
Alexander Heminway International Head of Design

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