Charlotte Perriand: The Avant-Garde Design Legend

Charlotte Perriand: The Avant-Garde Design Legend
First dismissed by Le Corbusier, designer Charlotte Perriand later collaborated with the famed architect for a decade. With her revolutionary furniture designs, she reimagined the 20th century lifestyle. Many notable achievements began with failure. Henry Ford went bankrupt before starting the Ford Motor Company. Thomas Edison tested thousands of materials before creating the lightbulb. JK Rowling received 12 rejections before the first Harry Potter book was published. Wayne Thiebaud, the prolific American artist, was rejected by almost every gallery in New York City until art dealer Allan Stone staged his first show. And Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999)— the architect, interior and furniture designer, urbanist, and photographer — was initially turned away by legendary architect Le Corbusier. Interior Design (furniture) of Charlotte Perriand. Photo: Jacques Delacroix /Wikimedia Commons Considered one of the most prolific French designers of the 20th century, Charlotte Perriand had a career that spanned 70 years. Although her remarkable oeuvre crossed and often eliminated the boundaries between many disciplines, her body of work was far more comprehensive than she’s been given credit for. She created a new art de vivre, by combining the aesthetics of tradition with modernity. What exactly is the art de vivre? The French art of living is rooted in its rural past as lived à la campagne, in the bucolic countryside. It’s savoring the day-to-day flow of daily life amidst the luxury of ordinary, beautiful things. Of Savoyard and Burgundian origin, Perriand grew up in the campagne, imbuing her with a passion for nature that became a necessary counterpoint to the avant-garde genre in which she distinguished herself. Nuage bookcase (manufactured by Cassina). Photo: Luca Ferri Fattoretto / Wikimedia Commons Perriand was part of the early European avant-garde circle that gave birth to modern design. Avant-garde artists promote progressive, societal, cultural, and political reform through their art. From 1920 to 1925. Perriand studied architecture, interior and furniture design at the École de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs (school of applied arts) in Paris. She worked alongside Dora Maar (photographer, painter, and muse of Pablo Picasso), Jacqueline Lamba (painter and friend of Frida Kahlo), and Marianne Clouzot (painter and illustrator). It was there alongside her fellow classmates that she experimented with different materials — glass, chrome, aluminum, and leather — that remain at the core of contemporary design today, and also developed her belief that better design helps in creating a better, more egalitarian society.

Lead photo credit : Charlotte Perriand, the French architect and designer, Japan 1954. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Sue Aran lives in the Gers department of southwest France. She is the owner of French Country Adventures, which provides private, personally-guided, small-group food & wine adventures into Gascony, the Pays Basque and Provence. She writes a monthly blog about her life in France and is a contributor to Bonjour Paris and France Today magazines.