Grand Repos armchair, 1930
Following the easy chair with movable back that Prouvé “built” for Louis Wittmann in 1929, he designed—doubtless, initially, for his own use—a relaxation chair based on a similar principle: lines of force ran from the front to the back legs via the armrests, thus allowing for control of seat movement. Rigidity was ensured by tubular braces. Here, however, the principle was implemented in a different way. Seat and base were separate, with the U-shaped profiles of the lower frame forming a “guide rail” for the ball-bearings enabling the shift from the seated to the reclining position. The adjustment springs linking the frame to the seat were built into the solid bent steel sides. The seat itself was a single piece of stamped sheet, padded and upholstered in leather. The prototype was shown at the first UAM (Union des Artistes Modernes) exhibition in June 1930 and remained in the Prouvé family apartment until the War. The system of adjustments using spring-activated ballbearings was also used in a small series of Grand Repos armchairs with pressed steel frame and seat. The principle was simplified: a single large spring controlled the adjustment and the sides were hollowed out, thus displaying the mechanism and the profile of the reclining seat. Comfort was increased with padded cloth upholstery.1 Changes of position were triggered, as needed, by a simple movement by the user. Output was limited to a handful of examples; one was shown in Algiers in 1936 and another kept by Jean Prouvé.2
1. The “padding” was already being made by Nancy upholsterers Chrétien, supplier for Jean Prouvé and then for his Ateliers as long as production continued.
2. A mechanical armchair designed around 1930 was produced and distributed as “D80 Grand Repos” by the German firm Tecta from 1983 to 1989, after being honed in collaboration with Jean Prouvé.