Roentgen Thonet and the Modernism"
Roentgen-Museum/Municipal Gallery Former Mennonite Church Neuwied
From 22.05. to 04.09.2011
In 2011 we celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the birth of one of the most important German cabinet makers of his period: Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793). He was born on 30th January 1711 as the son of the carpenter Gottfried Roentgen in Mülheim (Cologne). He founded a workshop, since 1750 based in Neuwied. Mainly under the leadership by his son David it developed to one of the most successful and most innovative furniture manufacturers in Europe in the second half of the 18th Century.
Abraham Roentgen used noble materials and precious, elaborate marquetry (inlaid) and equipped his furniture with refined mechanics, which made them to much sought and expensive pieces. His major clients included the Archbishop of Trier and Elector Johann Philipp von Walderdorff and Prince Friedrich Alexander of Wied-Neuwied. David Roentgen delivered his furniture to the European courts between Paris and St. Petersburg.
Just a few kilometers away from Neuwied Michael Thonet (1796-1871) founded in Boppard 1819 at the age of 23 years his first carpenter's workshop. He used a new and innovative procedure - the laminated wood technology - that provided him to produce his furniture in large numbers and therefore less expensive than his competitors. Financial trouble and the recommendation of the Austrian State Chancellor Prince Metternich, Clemens caused him to go to Vienna in 1842. Among its customers there is the Austrian aristocracy, for whom he produces parquet floors and luxury furniture. He also works consistently to improve his innovative manufacturing technology and is finally able to bend solid wood. The mass production of all types of furniture begins in 1856 in Corycany and in 1859 the famous “Kaffeehausstuhl” model No.14 is produced for the first time.
In the 20s tubular steel furniture is a serious competitor for bentwood. Architects like Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe design daring furniture for a new society. In Scandinavia, Alvar Aalto uses the laminated wood technology in the 1930s - a process perfected by Michael Thonet - and combines both plywood parts with those made from laminated wood. In the USA Charles and Ray Eames Ray use the same techniques in the 40s. In the 50s Arne Jacobsen designs and builds chairs with seats and backrests made of only one board of plywood and combines it with tubular steel legs. The 60s are the Plastic Age. Verner Panton designs the first cantilever chair made from this material.
All these furniture is considered today as "modern classics" and compete with the current design. The exhibition in the Roentgen-Museum shows some interesting furniture manufactured in Neuwied, particular by Abraham Röntgen and Thonet furniture of the early Boppard and Vienna time. In the second part of the exhibition at the Städtische Galerie Mennonitenkirche [Municipal Gallery former Mennonite Church] an overview of the different ways of bending wood, tubular steel up to molded plywood and plastic are presented. The beauty of the best designs shown here undoubtedly lies in its structural clarity and simplicity, which arises directly from the industrial manufacturing process and does not deny it.
from London, New York, Vienna, from Belgium and Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Mannheim and many important private collections.
At the exhibition, a comprehensive catalogue with contributions by renowned authors is published. It can be purchased at the museum and will also be sent on request.
The Roentgen - Museum on YouTube
In the galleries you will find a complete overview of the two exhibitions in Neuwied.
Have fun watching.
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