Last week, Tom wrote about a little painting in the European galleries that caught his attention. I too am captivated by one of LACMA’s smaller objects—Child’s Chair (1945) by Charles and Ray Eames, on view in the American galleries.
What really gets me about the chair is the same thing that enchants me with great design in general. I can easily imagine this chair in my house in a way that I can’t imagine, say, a massive Richard Serra sculpture which would require blowing out ceilings and walls and removing all furniture from my normal-scale home. Also, as a mother of a small child, I can envision my son interacting with this charming object as part of our daily life.
In researching the chair for this post, I discovered that the sweet little heart cutout in the back is actually meant to serve as a child’s finger hold—though, according to Bent Wood and Metal Furniture: 1850-1946, “The shape of the perforation in the back of the chair… was felt by many to be a sentimental gesture out of keeping with the progressive aesthetic and technical innovations of the design.” About 5,000 were produced, and the form, along with other Eames children’s furniture, was discontinued after four years because it was not commercially successful.
Bobbye Tigerman, assistant curator of decorative arts and design, notes that another children’s toy, the Eames plywood elephant, has been recently reissued in a limited edition. We both agree that the chairs would fly off the shelves these days. (Nudge, nudge fabricators…)