SIR BASIL SPENCE (1907-1976) FOR H. MORRIS & CO., GLASGOW
'ALLEGRO' ARMCHAIR, DESIGNED 1947-1948
laminated wood, bears maker's label MORRIS MADE/ GUARANTEED TRADE MARK/ GLASGOW
52cm wide, 85cm high, 50cm deep
Estimate £ 2,500-3,500 + fees

Provenance: Collection of Andrew McIntosh Patrick
Exhibited: London, The Fine Art Society 'Austerity to Affluence', 20th October -14th November 1997
Literature: Studio Yearbook of Decorative Art, 1949, p. VIII (advertised)
'Austerity to Affluence: British Art & Design 1945-1962', The Fine Art Society, London, 1997, p. 14 and p. 22, cat. no. F27
Long, Philip and Thomas, Jane (Edit.) 'Basil Spence', Architect National Galleries of Scotland in Association with RCAHMS, Edinburgh 2008, p. 52 and p. 54, fig 55 illus.
Note: In 1947 Neil Morris of manufacturers Morris of Glasgow asked Spence to collaborate on a range of plywood furniture he was working on, which was to include his Bambi chair and celebrated Cloud table. The result was the 'Allegro' dining suite, which was awarded a diploma by the Council of Industrial Design in January 1949. In March of the same year it was exhibited at the Glasgow Today and Tomorrow, where it was commended, and an example of the armchair was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York for their collection. In September 1949 it was displayed at the Morris stand, also designed by Spence, at the Scottish Industries Exhibition. In 1951 another single armchair was commissioned for the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (V&A CIRC.183-1951).
The manufacture of the Allegro suite found its origins in wartime innovation. The Southampton-based manufacturer of helicopters, Cierva Autogiro, had developed techniques of laminating and shaping wood to make strong and light helicopter blades - these blades were supplied by Morris of Glasgow by 1946, and the same technology was applied to this remarkable suite of furniture soon afterwards. Over one hundred layers of wood were bonded together under high frequency electrical pressure with phenoformaldehyde, a synthetic resin. The wood is then shaped and carved to produce the chairs (and the matching table and sideboard). Whilst it is now acknowledged as a landmark in immediate Post-War British furniture design, the immense expense of this manufacturing process meant that this furniture went into extremely limited production, and as a result examples are extremely rare. In 1950 a single chair was advertised at £31 18s 3d, at a time when the average British annual income was just £101.


Sold for £12,000 (buyer's premium included)