Bentwood and Beyond - Thonet and Modern Furniture Design

Bentwood and Beyond: Thonet and Modern Furniture Design

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the world-famous company Thonet, the MAK has announced 'Bentwood and Beyond: Thonet and Modern Furniture Design.' The exhibition will feature the entire company history from the first half of the 19th century up to today.

The innovative bentwood furniture from Michael Thonet established one of the most successful furniture brands in the world and made style history. In the middle of the 19th century, German master joiner set out from Boppard on the Rhine to Vienna beginning a unique success story: In Austria, he perfected and patented the bentwood technique he developed, and founded the largest furniture empire of the 19th century. The ultimate breakthrough came in 1859 with the production of the iconic chair No. 14, the epitome of the so-called coffee house chair. The novel technology of bending solid beech wood made it possible to produce furniture in industrial dimensions for the first time. Chair No. 14 is still one of the world's best-selling pieces of furniture and is considered the undisputed "classic" of modern industrial design.

'Bentwood and Beyond' will chronicle the developmental stages of bentwood technology, the transition from manual craftwork to mass production, and finally to mass production. Not only chairs, but also tables, armchairs, loungers, and wardrobes were and still are manufactured using bentwood technology, again and again in cooperation with well-known designers and architects.

Exhibition curator Sebastian Hackenschmidt, curator of the MAK Furniture and Woodwork Collection, and guest curator Wolfgang Thillmann, a high-caliber scientific expert on the history of Thonet include nearly 240 exhibits in the exhibition. The furniture is placed into groups of two to three objects and approximately 100 comparisons are made therewith. This provides a sound insight into material technological developments, typological parallels, and iconographic affinities.

Photo: Georg Mayer, Courtesy of MAK