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Who is Pierre Chapo?

Pierre Chapo (1927-1987) is a remarkable artist of the 20th century. Little known to the general public, his exceptional woodwork and his redefinition of cabinetmaking and artisanal design nevertheless guarantee him to be very well highlighted in exceptional sales in Europe and America. The prices of his pieces of furniture are up sharply in auctions, alongside great designers like Jo Colombo. In addition, Pierre Chapo's son, Fidel, decided to relaunch the production of furniture in Gordes according to his father's drawings, which aroused the interest of collectors.

His life

Pierre Chapo was born on July 23 1927 in Paris, in the Belleville district of the 19th arrondissement. He grew up in a family of craftsmen. Ten years later, his family moved to the Cher, in Vierzon. Chapo already has an artistic sensibility, turned towards painting, but at 20 years he meets a marine carpenter, Perrot, who introduces him to woodworking. This medium seduces him. He decides to enroll at the National School of Fine Arts and specializes in architecture. He travels a lot: in Sweden, in Finland, in England, in Germany, in Central America, in Mexico, in Arizona, in Canada… Once back in France, he opens his workshop in Clamart, in the suburbs of Paris. He worked there with wood, in particular elm, ash, and oak. He made his first furniture there alone. His work shows his interest in traditional know-how, which he mixes with influences from contemporary design.

Boulevard de l'Hôpital, in the 5th arrondissement, he opened the Pierre Chapo gallery with his wife Nicole Lormier (herself an artist). He rubbed shoulders with many personalities, such as Samuel Beckett who ordered him a single bed. It is the famous Godot bed. His own works are exhibited, as well as those of other artists like Isamu Noguchi. Decorative items, crockery, lighting, pieces of Scandinavian design, adjoin his own furniture.

In 1960, his work is recognized. On the occasion of the Arts et Techniques de l'Artisanat exhibition, the city of Paris offered him the gold medal. Seven years later, at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, he received the bronze medal from the Society for the Promotion of Art and Industry. In Clamart, his workshop has grown considerably thanks to many important projects. In 1967, he created a second pole of activity in Gordes where he opened a factory to manufacture the furniture he designed. He is interested in the European market, maintaining outlets in Brussels. Three workshops open in the Vosges, as close as possible to wood production.

Until his death in January 1987, Pierre Chapo established himself as an authority in his field and traveled across Europe to give numerous conferences on crafts and woodworking.

His influences

Pierre Chapo's works reflect the dialogue between tradition and modernity, craftsmanship and design. In this, he inherits an important thought in the first half of the twentieth century. This reflection had been prepared in depth in the second half of the 19th century by designers and thinkers like William Morris, who had managed to restore its nobility to traditional crafts. Artists like Frank Lloyd Wright, who was a great source of inspiration for Chapo, helped make the transition from Arts and Craft to modernity. In the 1930 years, in France, natural materials were highlighted by Charlotte Perriand in particular, who enjoys working with straw wood, or Louis Sognot, an expert in rattan. Pierre Chapo therefore began his artistic career at the confluence of several thoughts: one which emphasizes the importance of tradition, craftsmanship, and one which favors their modernist reinterpretation, as well as the thought of a primacy of natural materials, authentic, true.

Chapo had the opportunity to work with Charlotte Perriand. Their styles are often confused, and some objects can be sold as "Perriand or Chapo style". He works with her to furnish the ski resort of Les Arcs.

His furniture is also close to the work of Le Corbusier, since it has the characteristic of being modular. They can be used together, sometimes even combined. For example, the R19A dresser can be a side upright for the B19 desk.

Achievements

Some Chapo furniture is complementary. For example, the B02 desk, with a large drawer, presents the same ingenious assembly as the S11 chair, as the various B10 furniture, or as the L03 bed. They go perfectly in a room, offering the same authentic union of leather and massive elm.

Pierre Chapo designed many other tables. The T01 is a rectangular dining table, with straight and true proportions. The T02 is round and modular: simply add or remove cylindrical legs to obtain a low table or a normal table as needed.

Its sofas and benches are particularly comfortable and have a very sophisticated work of proportions and materials. The S22 sofa, for example, mixes the upholstered leather of the seat with the solid elm, giving the furniture great nobility.

Comfort is an important theme in Chapo's work. The S23 is a garden armchair on a tripod, which combines wood and leather (or canvas) in the search for real comfort and sincere style. This desire for simplicity and solidity is found in most of Chapo's furniture. In the 1960 years, the S24 chair was very rustic, authentic. The screws are visible and enhance these natural materials such as solid elm and leather. Its forms are triangular in profile, modernist, and particular care is taken in the assembly of the elements.

It brings technical innovations, notably with the TGV table or Table à Géométrie Variable, for which it uses the system of the wedge clamp. This allows it to slide a panel into a frame without dismantling the frame. This table has the advantage of extending up to 225 cm. It also introduces the detachable beam foot system, notably for the round T21 Sfax table, or for the square T27. In 1979, he invented the Chlacc system, "a homogeneous laminated construction assembled glued and nailed", found in the famous elm chair S45.

His creations return to essential forms of furniture, via an essential material: wood. It is not hidden, it is highlighted, worked, to find all its original nobility and reconnect the man with his furniture.

Bibliography

In 2017, the Magen gallery in New York exhibits works by Pierre Chapo. She is publishing a very complete work on this occasion.

If you are interested in a lot or a model among the furniture on sale, please note that you can request its estimate and a delivery quote.

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