...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...
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Thonet can look back on a proud company history, one based on highest carpentry tradition, innovation and lasting success. At the end of the 19th century Michael Thonet's bentwood production process revolutionised the production of chairs and armchairs: Thonet's most famous furniture pieces include the classic Coffee House Chair No. 14 by Michael Thonet and the Bauhaus furniture such as Mart Stam's cantilever chair S 43 or the chair S 32/S 64 by the famous Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer. The furniture manufacturer Thonet was founded following the relocation of the Thonet family to Vienna in 1859. With the introduction of Chair No. 14, Thonet soon developed into a renowned manufacturer whose designer chairs and designer tables were produced under the most modern conditions. Parallel to the transfer of the company to the sons' of founder Michael Thonet, the company moved in new directions through the early 20th century, in particular in cooperation with Bauhaus students and teachers such as Marcel Breuer or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Thus, in the 1920s, the Thonet were at the forefront of a move towards a more functional furniture design: classic tubular steel furniture from the Bauhaus era, which has lost none of its popularity and significance, still forms the foundation of this long-established company. One which today produces its furniture with the same love for handcraft and original design it always has. Amongst the more recent additions to the Thonet portfolio are modern versions of classic objects such as Sebastian Herkner's 118, an addition which expands and deepens the range of Thonet furniture for both the domestic and project markets.
The Thonet Family
The history of the Thonet furniture company dates back to 1819. In that year Michael Thonet founded his workshop in Boppard am Rhein and quickly established a first-class reputation: one Thonet would maintain for almost 200 years. In 1942 the company moved to Vienna and 10 years later Michael Thonet transferred the company to his sons as the company "Gebrüder Thonet". By the end of the 19th century, the furniture company had expanded worldwide - numerous factories, showrooms and sawmills were founded throughout the old and new Worlds. However, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy Thonet itself went into crisis and was merged in the 1920s with the Mundus AG and later with Jacob and Joseph Kohn. The advent of Bauhaus and the associated production of tubular steel furniture saw a revival of the companys' fortunes at beginning of the 20th century. In 1938, the shares in Thonet Mundus AG were bought back by the Thonet family. After World War II the majority of the Thonet factories were nationalised but the factory in Frankenberg (Oder) was rebuilt by Georg Thonet. With the appointment of Claus Thonet as member of the executive board, the fifth generation of the family finally joined the management in 1972. From 1976, the Austrian and German parts of the company were continued. independently Today, Peter Thonet leads the family business, which was renamed in 2006 from "Gebrüder Thonet" to "Thonet GmbH".
Browse through the current Thonet brochures for even more inspiration:
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..."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...
...In January 1928 Standard Möbel began selling Breuer's designs, and in the same year Thonet began producing further steel tube designs by Breuer; that Standard Möbel enjoyed, at best, middling success, and Thonet were a much larger, established, manufacturer, Thonet acquired Standard Möbel in 1929, thus, and logically, uniting the Breuer portfolio under one roof... Following the sale of Standard Möbel Lorenz both established his own company, Deutsche Stahlmöbel, DESTA, and acquired on behalf of Mart Stam copyrights for Stam's cantilever chair designs; thus allowing Lorenz in 1930 to sue Breuer and Thonet for infringement of Stam's copyrights...
...On December 10th 1869 Gebrüder Thonet voluntarily relinquished their 1856 Privilege in respect of "The manufacture of chairs and table legs made of bent wood, the bending facilitated by the action of steam or simmering liquids"; thereby ending not only a thirteen year monopoly during which time Thonet became a firmly established global brand, but also the culmination of a neigh on three decade story which highlights the importance of patent protection in the furniture industry... 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...
...Standing in the Leipzig Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, surrounded by 150 years of Thonet chair history, Peter Thonet, x-times-great grandson of company founder Michael Thonet and until his recent retirement company CEO, is clearly a very satisfied man, "It makes one proud to be able to look back on a collection of objects that have not only been important for the company, but which have also, occasionally, written design history" Few visiting the new Grassi Museum exhibition "Sitting – Lying – Swinging... Furniture from Thonet" could or would argue...
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