cf. Frederick Kiesler 1890-1065: Inside The Endless House, New York, 1966, p. 67 for an image of a chair of this model. A. Cohen-Solal, Sartre: A Life, New York, 1987, for information on Dolorès Vanetti's relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, in particular pp. 269-279. L. Phillips, Frederick Kiesler, New York, 1989, pp. 62-65 for images and drawings of chairs of this model. Fredrick Kiesler: Art of this Century, Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation Vienna and MMK - Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main eds., Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002, pp. 48-49, 56-57, 78-79 for images of chairs of this model. H. Rowley, Tête-à-tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, New York, 2005, for information on Dolorès Vanetti's relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. M. Pessler and H. Krejci, Frederick Kiesler Designer: Seating Furniture of the 30s and 40s, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2005, pp. 76, 80-85, 102 and 199 for images and drawings of chairs of this model. C. Seymour-Jones, A Dangerous Liaison, New York, 2008, for information on Dolorès Vanetti's relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, in particular pp. 309-321.
The artist, architect, designer and poet, Fredrick Kiesler, is best known for the wildly non-conformist interiors and furnishings he designed for Peggy Guggenheim's 1942 'Art of this Century' gallery. An avid collector of modern art, Guggenheim called upon Kiesler to transform two tailor shops at 50 West 57th street into a gallery and implored him to employ "new methods for exhibiting paintings, drawings, sculpture, collages, and so-called objects." Seeking to break down barriers between the art and the viewer and activate the latter's experience, Kiesler's innovative designs included gallery spaces with curved walls, displays that could adjust for height and angle, sound and light effects, as well as a series of multipurpose seats, 'instruments,' such as the two offered here, which he designed for both the viewer's comfort and the display of the art itself.
Kiesler's holistic approach to design is based in large part on 'Correalism,' a term he coined to express the dynamics of the continual interaction between man and his natural and technological environment. For Guggenheim's gallery, Kiesler designed five types of chairs, three based on 'Correalism:' one was a rocker and the other two, 'instruments.' While Kiesler had hoped 90 chairs would be made, only 30 were constructed, all by himself with a German carpenter in a garage in the Bronx. Calling them 'rest-forms' Kielser explained, "I took a form similar to a wave, and curved it in such a way as to create an object with no beginning and no end; and in the concave and convex curves, the body could rest." Without arms or legs, the form "could be placed on either of its sides, transformed into a chair, into a support for sculpture or painting, or into a table or bench." Made of ash and linoleum the units were designed with holes in strategic locations so planks could be inserted for suspending objects or to link several together to create larger display surfaces.
New York in the 1940s was the epicenter for post-war American and European art. In Kiesler's visionary galleries, Guggenheim exhibited the work of André Breton, Jean Arp, George Bracque, Salvador Dalí, David Hare, Wassily Kandinsky and, among others, her husband Max Ernst. The chairs offered here were once owned by Dolorès Vanetti, herself involved in the 1940s New York avant-garde. Vanetti was often seen with Jean-Paul Sartre when he visited New York for extended periods. They listened to Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins in the famed jazz clubs on 52nd street and were frequently seen together in the cafés in Europe as well. It was to "a certain Dolorès" that Sartre dedicated the first issue of his existentialist journal Les Temps Modernes, and in his late sixties, Sartre proclaimed, "Dolorès gave me America." Married to an American doctor, Dolorès was "the hardest [challenge] to accept" in the life partner pact between the feminist author and social theorist Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre.
With her perfectly composed, low voice, Vanetti was in charge of the "Show Féminin," a French radio broadcast for the Office of War Information. Intelligent, attractive, charismatic and extremely popular, Dolorès' numerous friends included Claude Lévi-Strauss, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, David Hare, Max Ernst and André Breton, who published her poems in his Surrealist journal V.V.V., John Dos Passos and Albert Camus. It is unclear how Vanetti acquired these chairs and whether she ever met Kiesler, but they did share friends and acquaintances, among them Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. The latter is perhaps the most likely point of contact; a dear friend to Dolorès, he exhibited at the 'Art of This Century' gallery and also asked Kiesler to design an exhibition for him in Paris in 1947.