Jean Prouve designer

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: The Poetry of French Postwar Design

October 8, 2015

LAMA Auction October 2015

In Toward an Architecture, his classic modernist manifesto of 1923, Le Corbusier famously said, “a house is a machine for living in.” But he also wrote these lesser known, yet I think, more telling remarks: “You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction. Ingenuity is at work . . . But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: ‘This is beautiful.’ That is Architecture. Art enters in.”

A group of French postwar design objects in LAMA’s upcoming auction put me in mind of Le Corbusier’s observations. In the years following the war few French designers were able to work with the rich stuff seen in the thirties, such as lacquer, shagreen, exotic hardwoods, and kid leather. Instead they made do with humble and industrial materials: painted or enameled sheet metal, stainless steel, pine, oak, or plywood. And yet they created some of the most beautiful and inventive designs of the 20th century. Such lots by Jean Prouvé, Le Corbusier with Charlotte Perriand, Mathieu Matégot, and Jean Rispal go to auction this October 11.

Just In: Jean Prouvé’s Dactylo Desk

August 6, 2015


An artisan, designer, and engineer, Jean Prouvé (1901–1984) was one of the most innovative and influential figures in 20th-century French building and furniture design. Practicality was paramount to Prouvé–his designs are notable both for their economy of means (not a single structural element is superfluous), and resulting graceful forms. This Dactylo desk (the word is French for “typist”) is a classic example of his style. It features a folded enameled steel frame, legs finished with stainless steel sabots, and an oak top. The design is at once efficient, elegant, and effortlessly chic.

What a Jean Prouvé School Desk Can Teach Us

April 10, 2015

Lot 132, Jean Prouvé, School desk, designed c. 1930s–1940s

French designer and engineer Jean Prouvé is regarded as one of the great innovators of 20th-century design. From the start of his career, Prouvé helped guide French modernism toward a principled democratic approach to architecture and design. Most of Prouvé’s work focused on projects for public institutions such as hospitals and universities. He was also a humane designer. His c. 1930s desk and double chair set, or “school desk,” encourages children to work together compatibly. Los Angeles Modern Auctions is pleased to offer a Prouvé Atelier-designed (c. 1930s–1940s) school desk at the May 17 Modern Art & Design Auction.