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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Dutch, 1888 - 1964
"Zig Zag" Chair
Designed 1932, made c. 1940

30 ¾ x 14 ¾ x 15 ¾ inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The American Institute of Architects Houston Design Collection,
gift of friends of Anderson Todd and S. I. Morris in their honor,
with additional funds provided by the Decorative Arts Endowment

Arts of Europe

The functionalist form of Gerrit Rietveld’s "Zig Zag" Chair  is a response to the cantilevered chairs designed by German architects such as Mart Stam, Heinz and Bodo Rasch, and Marcel Breuer in the 1920s. The "Zig Zag" is one of the most important experimental chair designs of its time.

Rietveld intended the chair to be mass-produced from simple materials. It consists of four rectangles whose arrangement forms a cohesive unit that gives the appearance of seamless construction in profile. At first, however, Rietveld was unable to achieve a continuous cantilevered structure that would hold the weight of a person solely in wood. Therefore, he inserted a series of screws, dovetail joints, and reinforcing wedges to structurally support the design. The "Zig Zag" Chair  was ultimately produced by the Dutch firm Metz & Co. in a few variations until the 1950s. Because of its iconic status, in 1971, the chair was again put into production by the Italian firm Cassina. This example in pine dates from the earliest years.