The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design
he Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design features 37 significant examples of American chairs created between 1810 and 2010. Designed for form and function, each of these works of art acts as a window into our national history, culture, and social trends. Designs from the late-nineteenth century Aesthetic Movement emphasize hand-craftsmanship and ornamentation, ironically prized by those who had amassed great wealth through industrialization. The emergence of computer technology is seen in the color and complexity of the twenty-first century’s Postmodern chairs.
This encyclopedic survey of exceptional chair design stresses the formation of an American aesthetic. The exhibition features chairs by designers George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, the Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, and Frank Gehry, among others, The Art of Seating showcases this country’s creativity and ingenuity in decorative design over the last 200 years.
The chairs are presented surrounded by the lavish late 19th-century interiors of the Driehaus Museum—once the residence of the affluent Nickerson and Fisher families of Chicago. Each piece of seating furniture in the 1883 mansion was carefully designed to harmonize with the room for which it was intended. The intricately carved maple wood chairs of the Drawing Room and the magnificent ebonized wood furniture of the Library, both attributed to renowned Gilded Age cabinetmaker George Schastey, were not purely functional objects but rather art objects, representative of the finest craftsmanship of the day.