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Michael Thonet

Michael Thonet (born 2. July 1796 in Boppard/Germany; died 3. March 1871 in Vienna/Austria) is probably less important to furniture design for what he did than how he did it. Where his 1859 "Chair No. 14" is without question one of the classics of world furniture design, much more important is the process behind the chairs construction. The son of a tanner Thonet undertook a carpentry apprenticeship before setting himself up as a cabinet maker. From a young age Thonet was fascinated by the concept of bending wood to create durable, sturdy and for all natural forms. After much experimentation Michael Thonet was finally to achieve his goal, the bending of a round beech pole and his so called Bugholztechnik was to open the way for the cheap, industrial production of Thonet's chairs. In addition, Thonets discovery remains both an interesting production method for modern designers, and an inspiration and incentive for designers - in this context one need only think of, for example, Charles and Ray Eames experimentation with moulding plywood some 100 years later. Michael Thonet's second important contribution to the development of furniture design was the modular design of the chairs. This meant not only that broken or worn parts could be easily replaced, but also meant that the chairs could be shipped unassembled - thus saving costs and so paving the way for the global expansion of the company and its furniture. As such Michael Thonet can be seen as the father of not only modern industrial furniture production but also of modern automated processing.

More about 'Michael Thonet' in our blog

The Historia Supellexalis: "T" for Thonet

Thonet A Michael; A Twist; A Portfolio of Patents According to the Felsbilder of the Nymphs of Loreley, that most important of sources of information of the earliest (hi)story of the contemporary Rheinland, the Thonet arose in the community of Boppard, a...

Bentwood and Beyond. Thonet and Modern Furniture Design @ the MAK – Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna

...One such being inarguably Michael Thonet... Although the (hi)story of Thonet first becomes visible in the mid-1800s in Vienna, it technically issues forth in 1819 in Boppard on the banks of the Middle Rhein where and when Michael Thonet inherited his father's carpentry workshop and began his own experimentations in furniture construction...

Thonet & Design @ Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich

...Can it be a coincidence that Boppard's most famous son, Michael Thonet, is most popularly known for his curving bentwood chairs?... What is less contentious is that the flow and meandering of first Michael Thonet's creativity and vigour and subsequently that of the company Thonet has carved its mark not only on the Rhenish Massif furniture design and on understandings of furniture, but also the furniture industry, from production to sales and distribution...

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019

..."Thonet & Design" at Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, Munich, Germany 2019 is not only the 100th anniversary of the founding of Bauhaus Weimar, but the 200th anniversary of Michael Thonet establishing his first workshop in his native Boppard am Rhein; a one man workshop in a small village in Prussia which grew into seven factories across what today is four countries... Promising a presentation of Thonet chair designs from Michael Thonet's early decades in Boppard, over the Gebrüder Thonet's bentwood works of the later 19th century and the bent tubular steel of Breuer, Luckhardt, Mies van der Rohe et al of the early 20th century and on to the myriad works of the later 20th century by the likes of Eddi Harlis, Verner Panton, Konstantin Grcic or Stefan Diez; Thonet & Design should not only provide for a fulsome and detailed overview of the development(s) of Thonet over the past two centuries, but, we would hope, explore in how far the 200th anniversary helped paved the way for the 100th...

smow Blog Design Calendar: December 10th 1869 - Thonet Relinquish Solid Wood Bending Privilege

...A carpenter by trade, Michael Thonet began experimenting with bending wood veneers in his native Boppard am Rhein in the early 1830s, and therefore at that period when veneer was not only becoming increasingly popular in Europe, but when the introduction of mechanised production methods was making it ever more readily and cost effectively available; as such, one can understand his experimentation as an attempt to develop processes which allowed for meaningful expressions of the potential of that material, if you will to allow carpentry to move in new directions, for all in terms of furniture production... Following a decade of experimenting with, and producing furniture from, bent wood veneer, in 1840 Michael Thonet applied for a Privilege, a patent, in Prussia...

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