Whenever I have a day off when I’m traveling, I gorge myself on museums. Yesterday I had a free day in Munich, Germany, and spent the whole day in three museums. The highlight was getting to see work by Richard Riemerschmid in person.
Riemerschmid (1868-1957) was one of the leading designers of Germany’s Art Nouveau movements (Jugendstil) and was heavily influenced by the English Arts & Crafts movement. I’ve found his work to be straightforward, sometimes sinuous, and always well-made.
On display at Munich’s city museum were several of his pieces, including an armchair that is one of his most well-known pieces. My photo stinks, but the museums featured low light and lots of reflective glass. The chair looks fantastic from every angle (especially the back).
And while it might look uncomfortable, several sources say the opposite is true. Obviously, I didn’t get to give it a sit.
To me, the chair seems rooted in the Germanic vernacular. The back leg echoes the three-legged chairs common in Germany. The plank backrest recalls many early backstools I’ve seen in Germany. And the simple seat with its shallow saddling also fits the vernacular model.
Despite all its historical roots, the chair appears modern and light.
The surprise in the exhibit was a simple Riemerschmid stool that I’ve never seen before. Solidly constructed with through-tenons throughout, I was particularly taken by the seat. Riemerschmid was famous for introducing machine processes to the construction of his designs, and the undulating seat is obviously a by-product of this.
Is it comfortable? No idea.
Riemerschmid’s pieces are in many U.S. collections, including at MOMA. And sometimes his pieces show up in auctions. So, if you get a chance to see some, I recommend you do.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. In addition to Googling Riemerschmid, you might want to check out this online image library of his pieces at ArtNet.