Jean Prouvé, the Art of Living and Modern Design

Even those who don’t know his name are likely to have come across one of Jean Prouvé’s designs at some point in their lives. The industrial, Mid-Century modern pieces developed by this French architect and designer are strewn throughout stylish homes across the globe and collected by many a celebratory. Born originally in Nancy, France, Prouvé never underwent any kind of formal training in design. Instead, he received his influence from the artistic collection that his father, Victor Prouvé, belonged to.


Jean Prouvé
Jean Prouvé

Over the years, Prouvé explored ideas associated with applying industrial techniques to architecture and furniture, working extensively with sheet metal, allowing him to achieve a distinctive look in his designs. Though he experimented some with curvy furniture pieces, most of Prouvé’s designs center around a refreshing sense of simplicity and starkness.


Jean Prouvé Antony Chair

Antony Chair

Designed officially for the City University in Antony, Paris, this piece remains to be one of the most popular designs ever conceived by Prouvé. The Antony chair was one of the last undertakings that Prouvé engaged in as an industrial and furniture designer, but it is still one of his most striking designs. Both beautiful and serene at the same time, the Antony Chair has a spectacular level of appeal.

The ergonomic design has been carved to facilitate the ultimate comfort, providing a uniquely curved wooden seat that offers an unexpectedly striking complement to the steel base. Though this captivating piece is regarded by many as a work of art, it also manages to serve its function perfectly, supplying an ideal location for relaxing in just about any manner possible.


Jean Prouvé Standard Chair and Bar Stool

Standard Chair, and Standard Bar Stool

In terms of functionality, chairs are constructed so that most of the stress of the seated individual rests on the back legs, which help to support the upper body. As a Mid-Century modern architect and designer, Prouvé considered this specific insight when he constructed the design for the Standard Chair. Though simple steel tubing suffices for the legs at the front of the seat, which experience less stress, the rear legs are made using hollow, voluminous sections that effectively balance and distribute the primary weight towards the floor.

Both the Standard Chair, and the bar stool that utilizes the same aeronautic design are rooted in the concept of balance, practicality, and durability. Modern classics displayed in museums of design around the world, the value of the Standard Chair can be seen in its unassuming use of aesthetics and structural logic. Both pieces perfectly display the engineering pedigree of their designer, with an intense focus on connections, production, and material.


Jean Prouvé Guéridon Dining Table

Guéridon Dining Table

Pieced together from structural clarity and distinctive design, the Guéridon table was originally created for the Paris University. Constructed using individual sections of pure wood, and finished in a veneer effect, the table offers connotations with lightness and sturdiness at the same time, making it perfect for cafes, domestic settings, and more. The three-legged base, made from solid oak, was designed to offer the optimum stability, with each leg slanting outwards and cut diagonally to distribute balance and weight perfectly. This piece is a perfect example of Prouvé’s design imagination, informed primarily by architecture, yet using a natural material to prove that Mid-Century modern furniture designs did not need to exist around glass and steel.


Jean Prouvé EM Dining Table

EM Dining Table

Striving consistently for practicality and efficiency in all of his work, Prouvé’s designs were largely influenced by his background in engineering, as seen in the EM table, produced in 1950. Utilizing the principles of static connections and force vectors, the angled legs of the piece offer an impressively sturdy dining table or working surface. Every detail of this table is governed by its construction, focusing on aesthetics of necessity. The elegance of the table can be attributed to the way it invokes connections with civil engineering. Originally developed as a project for prefabricated housing at the beginning of the 1950s, the EM is primarily suited for the domestic sphere, as a work or dining table.


Jean Prouvé Solvay Dining Table

Solvay Dining Table

Between the years of 1941 and 1942, the studios of Jean Prouvé realized and constructed a number of Mid-Century modern interior design projects for the company known as Solvay. Among other concepts for the time, the Solvay dining table offers a unique insight into one of Prouvé’s prime creations. Similar in many ways to the EM table, with its use of statics and force path, the Solvay table differs only in its use of metal table legs. Because it was created during the Second World War, at a time when metal supplies were short, the Solvay table legs had to be constructed out of wood.

Impact of Jean Prouvé on the World Today

By far one of the most influential faces in the world of Mid-Century modern furniture design, Jean Prouvé introduced the style of the machine age and industrial engineering to interior creations through his use of aluminum, steel, and other architecture-inspired pieces. While his contemporaries were establishing themselves as icons of the times, Jean Prouvé preferred to imagine himself as a factory worker, instead of a designer. His modesty when it came to the ingenuity of his design and creativity in craftsmanship were factors that allowed him to revolutionize the sphere of design and construction. By folding metal like origami shapes Prouvé’s forward-thinking work nourished the obsessions of the twentieth century with prefab and steel construction.

With his nomadic architecture and light-weight industrial furniture, Jean Prouvé effectively revolutionized the concept of design throughout the 1920s to the 1950s. Today, those simple, yet functionally beautiful designs are in high demand for collectors throughout the world. Now, the work created by Prouvé is collected by people such as the US art dealer, Larry Gagosian, lifestyle expert, Martha Steward, and Hollywood heart-throb, Brad Pitt.