A pioneer of modernism in France, Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) was one of the most influential figures in 20th-century design and architecture. In her long career, Perriand’s aesthetic grammar constantly evolved, moving from the tubular steel furniture of the “Machine Age” to a lyrical naturalism.
Perriand’s studies at the Ecole de L'Union Centrale de Arts Decoratifs left her enthralled by Le Corbusier and his vision of a new, rational architecture. In 1924, she joined his studio to design furniture along with Pierre Jeannerert, Corbusier’s partner and cousin. Together, they devised some of the finest examples of early modernist furniture, including two icons of the era: the “B306” chaise with its swooping frame and hide upholstery; and the chunky, steel-framed “Gran Confort” club chair. Collaborative design produced another Perriand triumph: in the early 1950s, she and Jean Prouvé were engaged to produce desks, worktables and bookcases for the University of Paris. The bookcases — slim pine shelves with brightly painted aluminum dividers — are minimalist masterpieces.
By the end of that decade, Perriand’s aesthetic had changed completely from the earliest days of her career. She produced a series of furniture in ebonized wood: chairs with gentle S-curve legs, front and back; tables with elliptical tops. In the mid-1960s, she adopted an almost rustic look, designing simple chairs with dowel-cut frames and rush seats.