A breath of modernity with Prouvé and Leleu

On 05 December 2019, by Philippe Dufour

Two great 1930s renovators were commissioned to furnish a sanatorium in Savoy. The furniture they designed for a room combines joyous functionalism with the use of metal and colour.

Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) and Jules Leleu (1883-1961), complete room in welded and red lacquered bent sheet metal: pair of armchairs (86 x 61 x 80 cm), wall-hanging desk with a laminated Formica top (38 x 171 x 70 cm), chair (82 x 42 x 49 cm), convertible sofa with bedside table (92 x 202 x 133 cm), bedside table in curved tubular steel (60 x 49 x 38 cm).
Estimate of the ensemble: €18,000 to 20,000
© Adagp, Paris, 2019

The designer chose an innovative material to make this pair of reclining backrest chairs: folded sheet metal, welded and lacquered in bright red. These modernist pieces are part of a complete room designed by Jules Leleu and Jean Prouvé. Accustomed to public commissions in the inter-war period, this time they collaborated on designing the Geoffroy Martel sanatorium in Janville. In 1932, the Ministry of the Army commissioned this large health facility on the Assy Plateau in Haute-Savoie as part of a wider programme managed by the Association of High Altitude Sanatorium Villages (AVSHA, Association des villages sanatoriums de haute altitude), which had already built other treatment centres in the same region. Architects Pol Abraham and Henry Jacques Le Même designed the building, putting the latest hospital research into practice. When it opened in 1937, there were 172 single rooms for officers and non-commissioned officers from all the army corps suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Each had the same folded sheet metal furniture featured in this set from a private Parisian collection: a wall-hanging desk, a matching chair, a convertible sofa with a built-in bedside table, a pair of visitors’ chairs and a free-standing bedside table in curved tubular steel with two lacquered tops, the legs ending in wooden feet. Prouvé’s workshops in Nancy manufactured the pieces between 1935 and 1936. This was not the first time: in 1934, he had already delivered furniture, revolutionary for its time, for the halls of residence in Nancy. The legs and frames of the beds in the Savoyard sanatorium are identical to those used by Nancy's students. A twin of our set is in the Musée des années trente in Boulogne-Billancourt representing Prouvé’s functionalism.

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