THE EPITOME OF CHAIR DESIGN – THE KLISMOS CHAIR9th December 2021
The iconic Klismos chair is renowned for its historical importance, sleek lines and eye-catching design. Simply put, the Klismos chair has been a design masterpiece since its ancient Greek origins. Passionate about keeping the love of historically significant pieces of furniture alive, Tim Gosling manages to capture the soul of this exquisite chair perfectly by encapsulating it for future generations.
“A Chair is a very difficult object. A Skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Architect.
A piece of history
From a historical standpoint, the Klismos chair paved the way in design. From its ancient Greek beginnings to its neoclassical revival and its 20th-century resurgence the design has kept pretty much the same. As we delve into the wonders that are the Klismos chair throughout the ages, first we need to find out what features make it so special and sought after.
The curved and tapered legs of the Klismos chair are what make its design so unique. They sweep softly forward and rearward, providing stability. The back legs glide beautifully upwards to the wide concave backrest that not only provides support for the shoulders but is also low enough for the elbow to lean on. The design provides a touch of elegance and simplicity to any room.
“Original examples, unfortunately, do not exist anymore but they can be found in unbelievably beautiful pieces of sculpture”.
The Klismos chair throughout time
Depictions of Klismos chairs can be found on painted pottery dating back to the mid-fifth century BCE and onwards. The Klismos signifies an armchair, however, there has never been a specific description of its form. Instead, the depictions on painted pottery and artwork are the only true depiction we have.
If you look at examples of vase paintings during this period, satyrs can often be seen carrying a Klismos chair on their shoulders, portraying how light they were. From these paintings, you can clearly see the curved and tapered legs that have become synonymous with the Klismos chair sweeping both forwards and to the rear. The concave back panel provided elegant support for the back and shoulders and often was made from a single piece of wood, by using mortise and tenon joints or by bending the wood with steam.
The Klismos chair is an iconic piece of furniture from the ancient Greek period and is a truly inspirational invention that has paved the way for future design. As with most things, it, unfortunately, fell from popularity during what is known as the Hellenistic period. Despite depictions of the Klismos chair later being carved into the iconic theatre of Dionysus that is nestled at the foot of the legendary Acropolis in Athens during the first century CE. It is thought that the chair fell from fame due to its lack of sturdiness and support at the time.
The Klismos chair was brought back to life during the second phase of European Neoclassicism. They rose back to popularity quickly and were widely used in picturesque Paris. They were first seen in 1788 when painter Jacques-Louis David commissioned Georges Jacob to recreate them for visual authenticity and props for David’s stunning paintings. It is almost impossible to find examples of a French Klismos chair earlier than the ones designed by Jean-Jaques Lequeu in 1786 for the hôtel Montholon. Sadly, although the pieces have lost to time, watercolour designs of the French Klismos have been carefully conserved in the Cabinet des Estampes.
This style of chair was not only popular in Paris, but also across the channel in London, Thomas Hope in 1804 designed Klismos chairs for his house in Duchess Street. Hope’s home was a semi-public house museum and word quickly spread about these elegant and eye-catching chair designs.
Famous architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe from Philadelphia also designed a set of awe-inspiring Klismos chairs for one of the most advanced neoclassical styles for William Waln’s drawing-room. It featured a hand-painted cream and red design on a statement black background and the famous back panel and splaying legs. Soon Klismos chairs were seen in the White House among other famous buildings across America.
Neoclassicism designs perfectly captured the essence of the ancient Greeks’ first conceptualisation of the chair and added comforts such as a padded backrest, support on the colonettes, and panelling of the legs.
The Art Deco period once again revived the Klismos. People fell in love with the simple and sleek lines of the chair. Examples of Klismos chairs during this period designed by Danish Edvard Thompson can be seen illustrated in Architekten in 1922.
In 1960, T.H Robsjohn-Gibbings teamed up with iconic Greek cabinetmakers Susan and Eleftherios Saridis to create the Klismos line of furniture. All of the pieces within the collection perfectly recreate ancient Greek furniture and furnishings with incredible accuracy and passion.
“Historically the chair was a symbolic article of status and distinction. In the 16th Century it’s use became more practical. However, ‘The Chair’ is still thought of as a symbol of authority.”
GOSLING’S TAKE ON THE ICONIC KLISMOS CHAIR
Goslings’ unique twist on the Klismos chair perfectly complements any room and encapsulates the history behind the design. As one of the oldest and most iconic chair shapes in history, Tims’s interpretation of the shape allows you to elegantly lounge back into the seat and enjoy the design features.
Whether the Klismos chair is to accompany your dining table or be a standalone piece within your home, it helps to create a magnificent visual rhythm to any space. The frames are lovingly handcrafted by talented craftsmen and can be created in a wide range of woods and finishes and upholstery.
To discover more about our exquisite Klismos chairs, please get in touch.