A recent exhibition on the influential French designer Charlotte Perriand featured furniture and interiors across her nearly 80-year career, including her first big launch at the 1927 Salon d’Automne that caught the eye of Le Corbusier and began their 10-year collaboration.
There is a classic black and white portrait of Charlotte Perriand reclining on the now famous tubular steel LC4 chaise longue she designed with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in 1928. Skirt just below the knee and what looks like an oversized ballbearing necklace around her neck. It says everything about the designer who had a very singular approach to design and was a trailblazer for women.
Exploring a love of art and design and an acute understanding of how they enrich daily life, in the 1920s and 30s Perriand’s pared back furniture and interiors expressed the machine aesthetic but also a more earthy, textual fascination with nature beyond modern technology.
As a woman who worked in the early 20th century Perriand is both unique and fascinating. She collaborated with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret from 1927 to 1937 at the famous design studio at 35, rue de Sèvres in Paris., and was engaged in social issues throughout the 1930s – her philosophy for everyday life very much drawn to the rural countryside where the simple life meshed domestic life, work and nature.
In 1940 she travelled alone to live and work in Japan as the German army was invading Paris during World War II. Invited by the Imperial Ministry for Commerce and Industry she met local artisans and designers in Tokyo and Osaka and dove deep into the country’s traditional craftsmanship. The balance she developed between the machined and the handmade gave Perriand’s work a humanity and a warmth that influenced many of her peers including Le Corbusier.
Working across architecture, interiors and furniture, Charlotte Perriand heightened the rituals of daily life with new aesthetic values: The 10 year collaboration with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret and her time in Japan were periods of intense creativity echoing her interest in both tradition and modernity. The influences from Asia had a profound impact on her work and the rediscovery of traditional bamboo processing techniques further enhanced forms she had tested using steel tubing.
Like many designers who worked closely with Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand has not had the same recognition, despite the huge input she had within his studio. However, a newfound interest in the Paris-born architect and designer is taking shape and a solo exhibition of works by Perriand recently went on show at the Venus Over Manhattan gallery in New York. The largest exhibition of Perriand’s furniture featured nearly 50 designs across her nearly 80-year career in a collaboration between Venus Over Manhattan in New York and François Laffanour of Galerie Downtown in Paris.
The exhibition featured Perriand’s first big launch at the 1927 Salon d’Automne, the ‘Bar sous le Toit’, made of polished aluminum and glass. It was the piece that caught Le Corbusier’s eye and led to their 10-year collaboration. Also on view was one of the kitchens Perriand designed for Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille in 1952. Positioned at the centre of the house which was unusual at the time, the kitchen emphasised openness and encouraged those in the kitchen to participate in activities throughout the house.
The work of Charlotte Perriand offers insight into her pioneering modernism and holistic approach, and the ongoing influence of her design philosophy.