Red Blue Chair

Maryanna Estomba

This icon by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld ushered in the modernist design age

The Red Blue Chair was designed by Dutch architect-designer Gerrit Thomas Rietveld over 100 years ago. One of the principal members of the Dutch De Stijl movement, Rietveld (1888–1964) attained his legendary status thanks in large part to the paradigm-changing design of this chair, along with his famous Schröder House, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rietveld on his first version of the Red-Blue chair from 1917. Photo © Centraal Museum; Paul Citroen’s portrait of Rietveld, ca. 1931. Photo courtesy of Galerie VIVID

Rietveld joined the De Stijl movement in 1918. It was founded by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg, who was heavily influenced by the work of the movement’s most famous member, Piet Mondrian. The De Stijl proponents were dedicated to finding “harmonious balance” that could be applied not only to painting but also to total environments. Rietveld’s Red Blue Chair represents one of the first three-dimensional manifestations of De Stijl ideas.

Most surviving Red Blue Chairs are in museum collections, like these found at the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the High Museum. Photos @ respective museums

Rietveld also embraced the concept of “social design,” which was meant to contribute to people’s well-being and livelihood. With the Red Blue chair, Rietveld's goal was to reduce the volume of the classic armchair and focus on functionality. The result is a chair that consists of 15 bars, two rectangular plates as a backrest and seat, and two side panels (that would disappear later on). Hoping that much of his furniture would eventually be mass-produced rather than handcrafted, Rietveld aimed for simplicity in construction evidenced by the use of standard lumber sizes in the construction of the chair.

In the Dutch city Breda, Rietveld designed one of his last houses for the Verpaalen family. The family requested a Red Blue chair for the hall of the home and a custom-made blue bench. In 1999, Christie's in Amsterdam offered these two Rietveld works as part of its 20th Century Decorative Arts auction. Galerie VIVID obtained the Red Blue Chair from that 1999 auction buyer, and it has been in the gallery’s possession since. ◆

Gerrit Th. Rietveld exhibition at Galerie VIVID, 2013; the first ever Rietveld exhibition in a Dutch gallery. Photo © Galerie VIVID


This Red Blue Chair by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld is available through Galerie VIVID.

Founded by Saskia Copper and Aad Krol in 1999, Galerie VIVID was among the first to show contemporary design in the context of both art and design. The gallery's solo exhibitions have presented important contemporary artists, many of them Dutch, including two Rietveld retrospectives.