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Gerald Summers Bent Plywood Armchair


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Design, Ethnographic & Ancient Art

Gerald Summers Bent Plywood Armchair

Bought new by an Oxford artist and remained her pride and joy throughout her life

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Gerald Summers Bent Plywood Armchair


Designed 1933

Designed by Gerald Summers (1899-1967)

Made by Makers of Simple Furniture (1931-1940)

Height 78 cm Width 60.5 cm Depth 86.5 cm (30.75 x 24 x 34.25 in)

This is an extremely rare example of the Bent Plywood Armchair in original unrestored state. The chair has the original white tinted finish with the registration number stamped into the wood which reads "REGD.No 791116" and the number "37" under the front apron.

Gerald Summers furniture is seldom marked with the registration and we know of no other with a stamped number; occasionally a metal registration plaque is affixed or it bears a metal plaque with the name of the store through which it was sold.

Gerald Summers was the most innovative British Modernist designer and in only ten years produced over a hundred furniture designs which capture the zeitgeist of the 1930's. He achieved with this Modernist masterpiece what his counterparts across Europe and Scandinavia had been striving for as it describes in the simplest terms the ideal unity of material, production, function and form.

At this time adhesives did not stand the strain of everyday use and some of both Alvar Aalto and Marcel Breuer’s plywood designs had to be modified with spliced pieces and bracing. This was alien to Summers’ beliefs, “In pure design we expect each part and member to pull its full weight in making the design suitable for its purpose...".

The Bent Plywood Armchair is made from a single rectangle of ply; the seven 3 mm thick sheets with four lengthwise and 2 lateral cuts were placed on top of each other, sandwiched with the adhesive used in the aviation industry and laid in the mould. After only eight hours the chair was removed and required minimal finishing.

The design is ingenious because not only are all the component parts constructed from a single piece of bent plywood giving the design its distinctive visual appeal but also because the chair was the first to be formed in a mould. Summers applied for registration of the design which was granted by the London Patent Office in early 1934.

Originally offered through Heals and Harrods and select department stores in the US including Pembertons in New York, examples of the BPAC (Bent Plywood Armchair) are now held by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany.


Purchased new by Oxford based artist Juliette May Lucille Edwards (3 may 1909 to 23 February 2011) with whom it remained until her death in 2011

Sold by the executors of her estate.

Museums & Exhibitions:

Victoria & Albert Museum: The Bent Plywood Armchair is on permanent exhibition in the new 20th Century Furniture Galleries.

Museum of Modern Art, New York Exhibition 2014: The Magic of Plywood

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Vitra Design Museum

Thirties British Art and Design before the War organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain, London 1979

‘Constructivism in Art & Design’ Crafts Council Gallery, London 1988


The Design History Journal 1992 Vol.5 No.3 - precis of Masters' thesis by Martha Deese, Metropolitan Museum New York

Gerald Summers: Furniture For the Concrete Age Dunn and Mantz pub. 2012

1000 Chairs Charlotte and Peter Fiell, Cologne 2000 p.232

Design for Today 1934

100 Masterpieces Vitra Design Museum

Furnishing the small Home published London and New York 1930’s by the Studio Ltd.

A History of British Design 1839-1970 Fiona McCarthy pub. 1972

Bent Wood and Metal Furniture 1850-1946 University of Washington Press edited by Derek E. Ostergard


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