Stepping into furniture design was an obvious choice for the son of a master cabinetmaker. Bruno Mathsson was the son of Karl Mathsson, fourth generation master cabinetmaker. From early on, Bruno demonstrated a passion, skill and finesse with the new materials that were being introduced in the post-war times – plywood. It enabled extraordinary forms which weren't possible with earlier technology.
The first success was a design now known as the Grasshopper Chair, created at a time when hospitals were in a position to commission new furniture designs. "The Grasshopper" was designed for Värnamo Hospital in 1930 and given its cute moniker by the staff. The chair makes the DNA of the designer's career very clear, with a bent plywood frame supported by webbed upholstery. Ultimately the design was groundbreaking but it was resoundingly disliked for several decades and relegated to the attic, until the designer became more well known.
The self taught designer pursued more opportunities for creating seating and studied the best ways to support the human form. At the same time he worked to push the limits of bent plywood designs even more. The resulting three chairs designed from 1933–36 have become some of his best known designs – the Model 36 Chair (Working / Easy / Lounge Chair). These designs positioned him as a leading designer in Sweden and established an opening for his entry to the world design stage.
By the end of the 1930s, Bruno Mathsson was a pivotal figure in Swedish design and his work had caught the eye of a new, influential patron. Edgar Kaufmann Jr. was not only the director of MoMA but also the owner of two highly important architectural homes – Fallingwater (1935, Frank Lloyd Wright) and the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs (1946, Richard Neutra). Immediately Kaufmann selected Mathsson's furniture for the MoMA extension and also added to the Fallingwater interior.
It was through [MoMA Director] Kaufmann the the Mathssons were able to meet pivotal architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames and Walter Gropius and visit their works. These encounters encouraged the designer to create his own architectural designs, for himself and his wife Karin. Between the 1940s – 1950s he created a number of architectural works with the same lightness of form as his furniture.
Today, Bruno Mathsson is regarded as the most important Swedish designer in history. This is supported by Edgar Kaufmann who suggested Mathsson's designs and their important were on par with earlier modernist designer Alvar Aalto. His collaborative work with DUX produced some of the most prominent chair designs of the 1960s – the Jetson, Pernilla, Karin and Ingrid chairs which have been in production since 1969.
We are pleased to present a number of furniture designs from our archive collection, below, as well as several pieces currently available.