Galerie Patrick Seguin Showcases the Fanciful Designs of Frenchmen Jean Royère
With exhibitions on Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé, Galerie Patrick Seguin in Paris has made a name for itself by championing the stalwarts of 20th-century French design. In the second exhibition at its new London outpost, Patrick Seguin exhibits the forward-thinking designs of the somewhat lesser-known, though no less important, Jean Royère.
Royère’s (1902–1984) work has often been seen as a softer counterpart to that of his more austere contemporaries. Initially a banker, he decided as a 29-year-old to instead embark on the path toward becoming a furniture designer. Such a sudden change is characteristic of a designer later known for his independence and avoidance of strict categorizations. Over the next few decades, Royère built a considerable profile that earned him acclaim and many high-profile fans (including the Shah of Iran). Though many of his designs are now more than half-century old, they still feel fresh, largely due to their unpretentiousness.
Royère’s best work merges slick design with a dab of humor. For instance, the sweeping curves of his Éléphanteau armchair (1947) give it a distinctive presence. Any grace, however, is balanced out by bits of oddness: The chair is almost comically oversized, and its rounded, bulbous bottom nearly touches the floor. To top it all off, the chair has been upholstered in a pastel grey-blue fabric, which, befitting the chair’s title, brings to mind a cartoon elephant.
Similar attention to detail can be found throughout Royère’s furniture. His Pair of Croisillon chairs (1950) places small, pearl-like orbs on top of legs that have been painted in a rich, cobalt blue finish.
In another standout piece, Tour Eiffel table (circa 1963), Royère pairs a relatively plain, wooden tabletop with a complicated set of legs that are connected by lattices of metal—an unusual design choice that recalls the complex architecture of the table’s namesake. Persan 8-Branched lamp (circa 1950), meanwhile, playfully turns a lamp into an overgrowing plant. It’s another example of how, through his embrace of the eccentric and the surprising, Royère offered some of the most unique takes on the principles of midcentury design.
“Jean Royère” is on view at Galerie Patrick Seguin, London, Feb. 25–Apr. 23, 2016.