23 June 2021

Studio: Modern Life with Charlotte Perriand

Charlotte Perriand was a free spirited visionary, whose progressive approach to design shaped the 20th century. We take a closer look at her 70 year long career as an artist, designer, innovator and all round creative force.

A pioneer of modernism, Charlotte Perriand was one of the most influential figures in 20th-century design and architecture. She built an international reputation at a time when women in the design industry were often overshadowed by their male contemporaries. 

Born in 1903 in Paris, Perriand was surrounded by craft and creation from a young age; her father was a tailor and her mother, a haute couture seamstress. Considered an uncommonly talented artist at school, she was encouraged to enroll in the Ecole de L’Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs where she studied furniture design. While studying, she came under the wing of notable teachers, including Art Deco illustrator Henri Rapin, and Maurice Dufrene.

’Art Brut Grès plage Normandie vers’ Photography by Charlotte Perriand

Perriand was a great collaborator; famously working alongside Le Corbusier, Jean Prouvé and Pierre Jeanneret. Le Corbusier, a giant of modern architecture, famously dismissed Perriand when she first turned up at his studio, seeking an opportunity. A year later, he saw Perriand's work on display at the Salon d'Automne, in 1929. Her installation, "Bar sous le Toit" (Bar in the Attic), a simple staging of modern, industrial-looking interior design. He hired her on the spot.

Perriand started her career as a die-hard modernist, designing tubular furniture, reflecting 20th Century modernity and the “Machine Age”. From this point, her aesthetic narrative constantly evolved. She was drawn to nature and the outdoors; swimming, hiking, beach-combing, always taking photographs and collecting objects along the way. These found objects would go on to heavily influence her designs with more organic forms such as heavy silhouettes with live edge timbers, eventually finding harmony between the 2 aesthetics, combining industrial metalwork and beautifully crafted wooden furniture. 

’Art Brut Grès plage Normandie vers’ Photography by Charlotte Perriand

Perriand was a free spirited visionary, whose progressive approach to design shaped the 20th century with a legacy that lives on today; from the use of material, to her belief that good design meant good living. In her world, tradition and modernity coexisted, man and nature connected and boundaries between intellectual and artistic disciplines were eliminated. And undoubtedly paved the way for female designs today.

‘Better to spend a day out in the sun, than dusting your useless objects.’

Perriand apartment in Paris. Photography by François Halard

Charlotte Perriand: The Modern Life is a major retrospective of her work, spanning her 70 year career as a designer, artist, innovator and all round creative force, now showing at The Design Museum, Kensington.

[>] Charlotte Perriand: The Modern Life

Images via Wallpaper Magazine & W Magazine

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