adjustable lounge chair by william morris the socialist dreamer

still searching for a lounge chair for an outdoor seating area.  what angle should the backrest be?  it could be adjustable.  william morris (1834-1896) seems to have been the original creator of an adjustable chair.  at least his name has been attached to the much copied design.  

morris chair, desert craftsman, phoenix, arizona

morris chair, desert craftsman, phoenix, arizona

 

morris chair, copy, from 1866 drawing

morris chair, copy, from 1866 drawing

Morris chair by L. & J. G. Stickley

Morris chair by L. & J. G. Stickley

 

morris was an english designer who like many popular designers made a lasting impact with not just their art but their break away thinking about the times in which they lived.  morris was an architect, artist, textile designer, poet, and an outspoken proponent of socialism.  he reacted to the industrial revolution’s mechanized workplaces and poor living conditions for so many workers by dreaming of another happier world.  he did not lounge all the time, though.  he worked and thought about work.

“It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be of itself pleasant to do; and which should he done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious.”  william morris*

think about that for a minute and the types and work that men should do becomes a very short list. i think he had the dreamy world of artists in mind.  

morris was also a skeptic when it came to leadership.

“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; Art has remembered the people, because they created.”  william morris* 

“No man is good enough to be another’s master” william morris*

but morris was a leader himself, followed because his ideas and art were admired.  in a sense, he was a king or master of the english arts and crafts movement, which hoped society could get back to good craftsmanship and smaller personalized production in which all the workers could feel a pride and ownership.  i don’t think he foresaw that his utopian socialist world would require the fiercest kind or kingship and mastery to enact.  socialists are not pragmatic observers of humanity.  there just always are leaders and followers, ceos and janitors, generals and foot soldiers.  when anything is destroyed the leaders always get blamed whether it is their fault or not….. anyway, back to the lounge chair search.

here is another variation, sitzmaschine, designed for an austrian sanatorium. 

Sitzmaschine Chair with Adjustable Back (model 670). c. 1905., josef hoffman, produced by kohn

Sitzmaschine Chair with Adjustable Back (model 670). c. 1905., josef hoffman, produced by kohn

i find the design rather scary.  the name does not help.  it brings to mind enforced sitting.  associated with a long sickly stay in a sanatorium, the chair is not attractive.  but on the other hand, if you have to sit for a long time for any reason, it is wonderful to be able to adjust the angle of the backrest.  

* quotes copied from thinkexist.com

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british military influence on bauhaus furniture design

folding british campaign chairs inspired the basculant and wassily chairs.   

this is an interesting connection. 

roorkhee chair

a late 1800s roorkhee chair reproduction

   Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Corbett, sitting in a Roorkhee chair in Dhikala, India

Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Corbett, sitting in a Roorkhee chair in Dhikala, India

the british military were the spearhead of empire, of world commerce, christianity and civilization (british style).  they did a lot of camping, of living on the frontier, of folding their lives up and moving on.  this was not the whole picture, though.  behind it all was the victorian and edwardian leadership, the bankers and ceos in london, the plush english houses with their rose gardens, the educators fighting to bring the possibilities of the next generation to the children of the slums of manchester and the african bush, and radical missionaries with bold and kind hearts reaching millions for the gospel. it was one package: a powerful, prosperous, piratical machine.  

Basculant Chair LC 1 by Le Corbusier (1928)

Basculant Chair LC 1 by Le Corbusier (1928)

 

marcel breuers 1925 wassily chair

marcel breuer's 1925 wassily chair

le corbusier and breuer of the 1920s bauhaus set were champions of the modern style of that decade, their furniture design reflected an attempt to cope with the newly industrialized world, crowded unsanitary urbanism and disorder. they focused on clean open geometric form and new industrial materials, rejecting the soft, complex and rich forms and ideas of the past.  

yet they were also camping on the edge of possibilities as they saw them.  you cannot escape the world with your design style, but you can create a refuge of sorts from the elements of life that you wish to reject.

caution: when you go out the door, the world is still there.