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Gilbert Rohde (American, 1894–1944)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American industrial designer. He learnt cabinetmaking in his father’s shop in the Bronx, New York, and then worked as an illustrator of furniture for several New York retail shops. In 1927 he made a trip to Paris and there saw examples of the modernism known subsequently as Art Deco. On his return to America he undertook freelance interior design projects and made custom-built modern furniture for private clients (e.g. end table, c. 1927–9; Rohde family priv. col., see 1981 exh. cat.). In 1929 he opened a design office in New York, concentrating on interior design and developing furniture in the early modernist style. In 1930 he established a relationship with Herman Miller Inc. of Zeeland, MI, a firm that had previously made products imitating various traditional styles. Rohde convinced the firm of the superiority of the ideas of modernism at a time when this direction was virtually unknown in the USA; he developed an extensive line of furniture that combined functional ideas and simplicity of form with decorative details that were characteristically ‘modernistic’. Exotic woods, glass, mirrors and polished metals were used in groups of furniture that were modular or sectional in concept (e.g. dressing-table, c. 1935; see Duncan, p. 52). A modular group of furniture known as ‘EOG’ (Executive Office Group; designed 1936–9) introduced an approach to office furniture that has since been widely accepted. Rohde also designed for a number of other American furniture manufacturers, makers of clocks (e.g. asymmetrical clock for Herman Miller Clock Co., c. 1933; Rohde family priv. col., see 1981 exh. cat.) and other decorative products. He designed exhibits for the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and taught at and directed the Design Laboratory School in New York (1935–8). Through his work and teaching Rohde established himself as a significant figure in the development of the profession of industrial designer in the USA.

John F. Pile
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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