Reading armchair

Pierre Legrain (1889-1929)
Paris, about 1925-1928
Veneer of thorny and satin mahogany, silver-plated metal, braided leather
115 x 59 x 45 cm
Gift of Jean Édouard Dubrujeaud in memory of Jacques Doucet, 1958
Inv. 38148 A-B
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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This armchair is one of the many furniture pieces made by Pierre Legrain between 1916 and 1929 for the fashion designer and art collector Jacques Doucet. The latter had a new home furnished at every stage of his life, to house each collection he completed. After the sale of his eighteenth-century collection in 1912, Doucet moved to an apartment on Avenue du Bois in Paris, decorated by Paul Iribe and furnished with pieces by Iribe, André Groult and Legrain. In 1928, he moved his contemporary painting and African art collections to his wife’s house on Rue Saint-James in Neuilly. The architect Paul Ruaud converted the roadside wing into a “studio” comprising an entrance hall, a large gallery and an Oriental room. A side hallway led from the studio to the collector’s private apartments, where this reading armchair was probably placed as it does not appear in period photographs of the studio interior. African furniture was a key source of inspiration for Legrain. Many of his seat designs – and especially his curule stools – were inspired by objects from the French colonies in Africa (Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Dahomey and Gabon) and were exhibited in Paris on several occasions. This armchair, modeled on the structure of the chairs used by the Senufo herdsmen of Côte d’Ivoire, is a good example. The seat and back are of braided leather, and it is fitted with armrest panels and an integrated reading light – meticulous details that reflect the designer’s concern with practicalities. An Exhibition of Negro and Oceanic Art was held in 1919, followed in 1923 by an Exhibition of the Indigenous Art of the French Colonies in the Marsan wing of the Louvre; the best clients and patrons of Pierre Legrain, Jacques Doucet and Jeanne Tachard loaned their collections of African art for these two events.

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