b-guided > Barcelona

Jean Prouvé


An exhibition of his icons, colour palette, and four reissued pieces of furniture.

Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) trained as a smith, and his oeuvre encompasses from letter openers to door and window frames; from lighting and furniture to façade elements and prefabricated houses; from modular construction systems to major exhibition structures. To resolve furniture and housing issues he relied on industrial techniques. He used new materials such as sheet metal, plywood and polymers and investigated the possibilities offered by modern production methods.

  • On a visit to Paris in the 1980s Rolf Fehlbaum, chairman emeritus of Vitra, acquired Jean Prouvé’s Antony chair. The purchase marked the start of the world’s most extensive museum collection of furniture and objects designed by the French master, now in the custody of the Vitra Design Museum. In close collaboration with his heirs, the brand started to reissue his designs in 2002, and in 2022 extended Prouvé’s palette of original colours: to the existing options of Deep Black, Japanese Red and Blanc Colombe were added Gris Vermeer, Bleu Dynastie, Blé Vert and Bleu Marcoule as well as the Métal Brut variant of unpainted steel coated in a transparent protective finish that results in an honest expression of the actual material, leaving in view welds and connection points. Gris Vermeer alludes to the grey hues found in the work of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Bleu Dynastie recalls the cobalt oxide of blue and white Ming dynasty porcelain. Blé Vert reflects the colour of green wheat. Bleu Marcoule was developed for an important client of Ateliers Jean Prouvé.

  • Jean Prouvé’s furniture has an artistic awareness that is expressed in the details, the joins, the proportions, the static flows and the general construction and, ultimately, in the way the material is treated and executed. The final touch on the surfaces and the selective application of colour were no exception. The designer understood the profound resonance of colours, as his daughter Catherine explains: “my father chose them with great care, it was not for nothing that he was the son of a painter!”.

  • However, according to Prouvé, who believed in the “nature of a material”, only the parts in danger of corroding should be painted, so he would leave wood and aluminium untreated whenever possible. Yet beyond the practical benefit of providing protection against rust, he was aware that he could use colours to instil a certain aura in his pieces.

  • The exhibition features the Standard chair, the Lampe de Bureau lamp, the Cité armchair, the Fauteuil de Salon lounge chair, the Guéridon tables and the Tabouret Bois stool as well as the Abat-Jour Conique, a conical screen he developed in 1947 for the Potence fixture, the Tabouret N° 307 and Tabouret Métallique stools and the Rayonnage Mural shelving unit, which have recently been reissued.

    Until March 8th