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Under this heading we will report about interesting exhibitions that deal with the topics of bentwood furniture specifically and design in general. We will present exhibitions, events, openings and guided tours.


On 17 December 2019, the exhibition BENTWOOD AND BEYOND: Thonet and Modern Furniture Design will open at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna - MAK.

On the occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the company Thonet, the MAK presents an extensive exhibition on Modern furniture. In 1842, the German cabinetmaker Michael Thonet moved to Vienna: Here he was able to perfect his own invention of bentwood furniture and found the greatest furniture empire of the 19th century. With the No 14 Chair produced from 1859 onward, the company Thonet created not only one of the so far most sold pieces of furniture in the world but also an unchallenged classic of design. The exhibition at the MAK shows the fundamental importance of the company Thonet for the design of Modern furniture and places its characteristic and world-famous bentwood furniture into the context of contemporary technological, typological, aesthetic, and historical developments.

The exhibition will be on view until 13.04.2020.

The exhibition is accompanied by the catalog "BENTWOOD AND BEYOND: Thonet and Modern Furniture Design" by Sebastian Hackenschmidt and Wolfgang Thillmann, edited by Christoph Thun-Hohenstein and Sebastian Hackenschmidt. German/English, ca. 304 pages with numerous color illustrations. MAK, Vienna/Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2020. Available at the MAK Design Shop and online at for € 49.95 as of mid december 2019.

Photos will follow....



In 2018 the Roentgen Museum Neuwied showed the exhibition

Laminated wood and plywood - furniture design from classicism to the 1930s

On display was furniture made from laminated wood and plywood from the late 18th century to the 1930s.
Initially the purpose was keeping furniture parts in shape and not warping, but soon it became apparent that laminated wood - thin strips or veneers glued parallel to the fibers - also was to be bent easily and enabled design solutions that solid wood could never offer. Beside that laminated parts were much stronger than solid ones. The curved parts of furniture could now be executed as filigree as it was not possible for the cabinetmakers, who used traditional manufacturing techniques.

The French / Belgian art joiners Jean-Joseph Chapuis and Michael Thonet were the first to recognize the potential of this material. In the first half of the 19th century, they experimented with various manufacturing processes to produce bent pieces of laminated wood for furniture. Although most of them still orientated themselves on the classical or Biedermeier style repertoire of their time, their technical solutions are well into the 20th century. In the 1920s, designers such as Alvar Aalto and Marcel Breuer resumed these procedures and translated them into a material and contemporary formal language.

More or less parallel to the development of laminated wood, plywood - veneers crosswise laid each other at 90 degrees are glued together - was also experimented with in the second half of the 19th century. First only used for furniture construction, but soon also in many other applications. Decisive for the triumph of this material was the development of first steam, then electricity-powered machines, the improvement of glues and the use of hydraulic presses. Only with this equipment plywood can be produced on a large scale. The investments in machines and other equipment are very high and therefore require a product that is needed in large quantities. First this were chair seats. The elaborate, because only handmade and not very durable caning, with which especially the bentwood furniture manufacturers equipped their seating, was gradually replaced by plywood. One of the largest producers of plywood for all types of applications was "Luterma" in Estonia, while the German company Holzindustrie Wittkowski, "Cawit", pioneer of the plywood industry in Germany, specifically designed the production of chair seats for the furniture industry. The " Thonet Brothers " built in 1877 their own plywood factory. In addition to seats and backrests for chairs, this material was also used for suitcases, boxes, covers for sewing machines and all kinds of other containers. Metal coated plywood has been produced for automotive trim panels.

Beginning in the mid-1920s, a number of designers began to engage more intensively with the design possibilities of plywood and found entirely new and innovative solutions. In Germany these are the Rasch brothers, in Finland Alvar Aalto, in England Gerald Summers. London based Isokon was founded in 1931 by Jack Pritchard and the Canadian architect Wells Coates for the purpose of "manufacturing and selling plywood furniture". The main designer for Isokon was the Marcel Breuer, who worked for Isokon from 1936 to 1938, creating a series of furniture that expanded the design possibilities of these modern materials - laminated wood and plywood - in a way never seen before. In addition to Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer is certainly the most important designer of the 1930s modern era; For the first time, both use laminated wood and plywood in a form that suits the material and designed furniture that suits the modern architecture and living environment that still characterizes our apartments today.

The exhibition was accompanied by a 224-page, richly illustrated catalog, which can also be purchased in the museum or from the author.