Posted on February 10, 2009 - by

Jean Prouvé

Jean Prouvé
(1901 – 1984)

Birthplace: Paris, France

Jean Prouvé trained under Emile Robert in Paris as a metal artisan. He established his own workshop in 1924, in Nancy, and soon launched his first range of formed sheet steel furniture. In 1930 he founded the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM) with a group of his contemporaries.

Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, his own manufacturing business, was set up in 1931. The company developed a broad range of furniture design throughout at the 1930s and also branched out into architectural design. Working with the architects Lods and Beaudoin, Prouvé produced glass-and-steel components for Maison du Peuple in Clichy.

Throughout WWII steel was a scarce commodity so Prouvé began producing wooden furniture, complementing his designs with prefabricated components for housing. In reward of his involvement in the French Résistance, he became Mayor of Nancy following the city’s liberation. During this period his 200 employee-strong Maxéville factory produced furnishings and designs for schools, prefabricated homes and even residential buildings for the homeless. Due to the large demand for furniture at that time he made Steph Simon director of the factory in 1949, as a separate division of his business. Following shareholder disagreements in 1953 he disassociated himself from the company altogether, and from his own designs, he built a new home for himself in 1954.

In 1957 he was appointed Head of Compagnie Industrielle de Matériel de Transport (CIMT), a Paris based construction office, leaving in 1968 to set up his own architectural consultancy where he worked until 1984. During this period he took up a number of other posts, including working as a lecturer at the Paris Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) between 1957 and 1970, and standing as Jury Chairman for the Centre Pompidou architectural competition in 1971. As Chairman he selected the winning designs of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.

Prouvé returned to furniture design in 1980 and worked prolifically in the discipline until his death in 1984. His designs are regarded to have expertly united functionality with economical concerns while meeting the demands of mass production. Since 2002 Vitra has worked closely with the Prouvé family in reproducing an extensive range of his most popular and lauded designs. You can be sure of authenticity by the presence of a Vitra logo on Prouvés designs.

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