Elastic Chair

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cur eye Gragg, Samuel-Side chair

“Even though it was designed around 1808, we have included Samuel Gragg’s imaginative “elastic chair,” as he called it in his patent application, in our What Is Modern? exhibition because it was a startling innovation in its day, and an early example of the exciting possibilities of bending wood. The chair’s back and seat are formed from continuous bent­wood stiles, joined by horizontal rails at the top of the chair back, the front of the seat, and the point where the back legs are attached to the seat. The pliable na­ture of the wood and the thinness of the stiles give the chair’s structure a degree of flexibility not found in more tradition­ally built chairs, allowing it to adapt to the sitter’s weight and posture but retain its original form. Gragg’s unique achieve­ment preceded by many years the use of bentwood by nineteenth- century furni­ture makers such as Michael Thonet and John Henry Belter.”

DARRIN ALFRED associate curator,
Architecture, Design and Graphics,
Denver Art Museum