As the March 7 registration deadline approaches for the 2014 Inform Awards, which recognize excellence in interior, landscape architecture, and object design, a frequent question is: What is object design? The Inform Awards were conceived to explore those areas of environmental enhancement that are beyond the realm of buildings themselves. Here Frank Harmon contemplates the importance of just one element of object design, the humble chair.
Van Gogh’s Chair
Chairs are architecture. Like little buildings, they have a structure to hold people up and a function to make their occupants comfortable. Like buildings, they can tell a story.
For Vincent Van Gogh chairs were people. He associated his friends with places where they sat. When his father left, he burst into tears at the sight of his empty chair. In a painting of his bedroom, two vacant chairs represent the friends he longed for.
Chairs are a self-portrait. Van Gogh kept this chair in his small room at the monastery asylum in St. Remy. It’s as rough and durable as he was. On it rests his leather satchel, which he filled with paint and brushes, venturing out to paint in the monastery garden and beyond.
Today Van Gogh’s paintings command a king’s ransom, yet he scraped by from week to week. It can be said that all art comes from the poor: The rich don’t paint masterpieces, jazz was invented by the dispossessed, Van Gogh painted The Starry Night living in a monk’s cell. His chair reminds us that the greatest explorers are the ones with nothing to lose.
To see Van Gogh’s painting of his chair in Arles, follow this link