Milanese designer and architect Gio Ponti (1891 – 1979) is known throughout Italy as one of the foremost cultural pioneers of the post-war years, when Italy was faced with redesigning its identity. Ponti worked tirelessly, creating objects from cars to coffee machines and sofas, his impact prolific and his influence far reaching. His architectural works are some of the most famous across the Italian landscape, while his involvement in the art, design and furniture industries expanded possibilities and opportunities for young creators that followed. Ponti’s design work was extended into his teaching in Italy and artistic direction of famous companies. His work is appreciated and recognized across the globe, with collections housed in private residences and museums around the world.
Born and raised in the northern Italian city of Milan, Gio Ponti graduated with an architecture degree in 1921 after having served in WWI. He worked in ceramics, later becoming the artistic director for Richard Ginori, winning them the grand prix at a 1935 expo in Paris. His work was defined by its characteristic elegance and reinvention of neoclassical forms. In 1928 and 1941 respectively, Gio Ponti established two magazines Domus and Stile, which are known as two of the most influential publications in the fields of art, architecture and design. Ponti’s work was expanded into teaching, with series of lectures given at universities in over 24 countries and as a resident lecture at a design college in Milan. Ponti was awarded the title of commander of the Royal Vasa Order in Stockholm, the art prize of the Accademia d'Italia, an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London, as well as the gold medal from the Académie d'Architecture in Paris. His work is lauded as the most famous and one of the most influential of Italian Modernism, with The Pirelli Tower in his native Milan as one of his foremost achievements.
Gio Ponti, Armchair (circa 1950) H: 103cm W: 72cm D: 73cm, white suede and wood, Italy
The work put into the development of the ideal chair by Gio Ponti lasted throughout his career, although it began as a personal project. Often, the designing of a particular chair came about as the result of Ponti’s designing of a building – be it a hotel or an office block or museum. His method and approach to creation was to leave to part untouched, and his hands-on approach often lead to creating specific pieces for certain architectural work that he had done. The ethos behind Ponti’s key designs is the blending of comfort and aesthetics, often looking back through classic styles and then reinterpreting them. The armchair in white suede is an example of Ponti’s use of luxurious fabrics in muted colours that allow for sophisticated comfort. The elegant leg-stands made with a darkened wood neatly contrasts the lightness of the white body, in the modernist method of creating designs with a consideration of form and tone through contrasts.