|Born||8 April 1901
|Died||March 23, 1984
Jean Prouvé (8 April 1901 - 23 March 1984) was a French metal worker, self-taught architect and designer. His main achievement was transferring manufacturing technology from industry to architecture, without losing aesthetic qualities. His design skills were not limited to one discipline. During his career Jean Prouvé was involved in architectural design, industrial design, structural design and furniture design.
Prouvé was born in Nancy, France, the second of seven children of the artist Victor Prouvé and the pianist Marie Duhamel. The Prouvés belonged to a lively artistic circle, which included the glass artist Emile Gallé, and the furniture designer Louis Majorelle. Jean grew up surrounded by the ideals and energy of "l'École de Nancy," the art collective to which his father belonged. Its goals were to make art readily accessible, to forge links between art and industry, as well as between art and social consciousness.
After leaving school, Prouvé was first apprenticed to a blacksmith, Émile Robert, and then to the metal workshop of Szabo. In Nancy in 1923 he opened what would be the first in a string of his own workshops and studios. He produced wrought iron lamps, chandeliers, hand rails and began designing furniture. In 1930 he helped establish the Union of Modern Artists whose manifesto read, "We like logic, balance and purity."
Although Jean Prouvé shaped his public image around the idea that he was not married to a specific aesthetic, the tenets of "l'École de Nancy" were certainly a powerful influence on his body of work. "I was raised," Prouvé says, "in a world of artists and scholars, a world which nourished my mind."
He opened the successful "Ateliers Jean Prouvé" in 1931 and began collaborating with French architects Eugène Beaudoin and Marcel Lods on projects such as the Maison du Peuple in Clichy, an aviation club and an army camp. He also collaborated with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret on a variety of furniture designs. The war kept "Ateliers" in business manufacturing bicycles and a stove called "Pyrobal" that could burn on any fuel. During the war Prouvé was also politically active as a member of the Resistance and he was recognized for this involvement after the war by being named mayor of Nancy. He was also made a member of the Advisory Assembly after Liberation and made the Departmental Inspector for Technical Education. "Ateliers Jean Prouvé" were commissioned by the Reconstruction Ministry to mass-produce frame houses for refugees. At a time when cheap, speedily built housing was needed all over the world, Prouvé was recognized as a leader in the field, alongside the North American designer R. Buckminster Fuller.
In 1947 he built the Maxéville factory where he produced furniture and undertook extensive architectural research on the uses of aluminum. They built industrial buildings from aluminum and sent hundreds of aluminum sheds to Africa. He also designed an aluminum prefabricated house, the Maison Tropicale, for use in Africa, though only 3 were built. After Maxéville he started "Constructions Jean Prouvé" whose major works were a cafe in Evian, a pavilion for the centennial of aluminum and the Abbey Pierre house. In 1953, Prouvé designed the facade of the restaurant of the Hotel de France in Conakry, Guinea, consisting of shutters that pivoted and opened on the sea. When clergyman Abbé Pierre made an appeal for donations to build emergency housing for homeless people during the winter of 1954, Prouvé designed the 'Maison des Jours Meilleurs' (A house for better days); measuring 57 square metres, with two bedrooms and a large living area, a few men equipped with simple tools could build the house in seven hours.
In 1957 he started the Industrial Transport Equipment Company and built the Rotterdam Medical School, the Exhibition Center in Grenoble and the Orly Airways Terminal façade. In 1958 he collaborated on the design of La maison du Sahara, a modern prototype of a house built for extreme climate conditions. Between 1952 and 1962 he collaborated with Jean Dimitrijevic on the Musée des Beaux Arts du Havre, a glass, steel and aluminum structure that received the prix Reynolds in 1962.
In 1971, Jean Prouvé was the president of the Jury for the design of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He played a very important role for the choice of the winning project by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.
The metal furniture of Jean Prouvé was produced copiously in every studio and workshop. His work involved frequent collaboration, most famously with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. The style is set apart from the Bauhaus steel furniture of the time by his rejection of the steel tube technique. Prouvé had more faith in the durability and form of sheet metal, "bent, pressed, compressed than welded". His designs speak of a work philosophy that includes knowledge of the materials at hand, a commitment to collaboration between artists and craftsmen, an attention to evolving technical developments, and "the principle of never postponing decisions so as neither to lose the impetus nor indulge in unrealistic forecasts". Prouvé was influential in the development of the idea of nomadic architecture, likening a chair to a house, and designing both with portability in mind.
He died in Nancy in 1984.
Today, the Maison Jean Prouvé belongs to the City of Nancy, which rents it to an architect and his family on condition that the public can visit at certain times. Prouvé’s workshop from his factory has been rebuilt in the grounds.
Permanent galleries devoted to Prouvé’s work have been installed at the Musée des beaux-arts and Musée de l’Histoire du Fer in Nancy. On 2012, there were an exhibition of his ironwork at Musée de l’École de Nancy, an analysis of his impact on the city during and after World War II at Musée Lorrain and the installation of one of the prefabricated Maisons Tropicales he designed for use in Africa at Musée des beaux-arts.
- Alice Rawsthorn (August 17, 2012), Jean Prouvé: A Testimony to Ingenuity New York Times.
- Alice Rawsthorn (September 24, 2006), Jean Prouvé: A 'factory man' who became '90s auction star New York Times.
- "From Africa to Queens Waterfront, a Modernist Gem for Sale to the Highest Bidder". The New York Times. 2003-10-11. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Florence Lypsky (4 November 2010). "Hommage à Jean Dimitrijevic". Academie d'Architecture. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- Amy Serafin (May 25, 2012), Patrick Seguin restores Jean Prouvé's Maison des Jours Meilleurs Wallpaper.
- Roberta Smith (March 14, 2003), ART IN REVIEW; Jean Prouvé New York Times.
- Aric Chen (January 31, 2008), A Tropical House on Stilts Touches Down in London New York Times.
- Prouvé/Nouvel-Ferembal House (édition Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris 2011).
- Jean Prouvé (éditions Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris - Sonnabend Gallery, New York 2007)
- Maison de la Tunisie Bench-Bookshelf 1952
- photo of Jean Prouvé and biography (français) from the archives of the Centre Pompidou
- Jean Prouve Biography: The metal furniture of French designer Jean Prouvé is among the most sought after of mid-century furnishings.
- The meridienne shelter at the Paris Observatory - by Jean Prouvé
- Jean Prouvé Furniture Designs
- Jean Prouvé Architectures
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