The breadth and depth of RISD’s furniture collection make it one of the Museum’s greatest treasures. The tradition that began with Charles L. Pendleton’s extraordinary bequest of American colonial furniture in 1904 continues today through a lively acquisition program of work by individual studio furnituremakers and by leading designers working with manufacturers.
This exhibition makes evident the variety and vitality to furnituremaking in the 20th century, bringing into focus the similarities and differences of factory-produced furniture and unique work made in artists’ studios. One of the dominant issues is designing for mass production and consumption versus realizing a design as a single or very limited edition. The use of traditional materials as opposed to the newest materials and technology is another focus in modern furniture design, along with the pull of functionalism against humanistic interests in history, decoration, irony, and humor. These and many other concerns demonstrated by the work in this exhibition are what makes furniture such a remarkable lens through which to view design during the last century.