by Gerrit Rietveld
The Red & Blue Chair, also called the Rietveld chair, is one of the best known designs from the art movement De Stijl. In modernism, the act of sitting was rationalised and reduced to a few elementary shapes. The Red & Blue Chair is a revolutionary design. Despite the rigid shape, the chair is very comfortable to sit on, even without cushions. Even so, many people were of the opinion that the chair couldn’t possibly be comfortable. Rietveld’s answer to this was: ‘To sit is a verb’. Initially, the chair was made of plain wood. Only in 1923 did it receive its primary colours, influenced by Rietveld’s colleagues of De Stijl. The colours red and blue emphasised the function of sitting, the yellow components showed the intersection of coordinates in space.
Rietveld wanted the Red & Blue Chair to be a chair that could be produced with machines. Eventually the piece of furniture was never mass produced. Due to the perceived lack of seating comfort, very few people were interested in the chair. The heirs of Rietveld sold the rights to the chair in 1971 to the Italian company Cassina, which started up the production of the chair in 1972.
The Red & Blue Chair consists of only fifteen beech support slats and two plywood panels. The components are connected to each other at the top and the side. The first version had side panels near the armrests. In a later version, these disappeared.
In 2007, the original Rietveld Chair was sold for 264 thousand euro's at the auction house Christie’s in Amsterdam. This was a chair with a white finish. This is the highest amount ever at an auction for a piece of work by the furniture maker from Utrecht. The white chair was made in 1923 for the avant-garde poet Til Brugman from The Hague.
Rietveld said about his Red & Blue Chair: ‘It never occurred to me that this object would become so important that it would influence architecture’.