The first specimen from 1918 of Gerrit Rietveld’s world-famous Red-Blue Chair was uncoloured and made of stained beechwood.
In the early twenty’s monochrome versions were made in black, white, red, or monochrome with a contrasting colour for the rail ends, like for example the grey and yellow one for Charley Toorop and the black and white version for Paul Citroen and Peter Alma. The colours were chosen by the client’s wishes and on the basis of the interior where they were placed.
Rietveld himself had chosen a monochrome red painted chair for his own apartment on the Vredenburg.
The chair for Til Brugman from 1923 was monochrome white and was placed in the Space-Colour-Composition in Grey designed by Vilmos Huszár. This specimen was acquired by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
The writer Til Brugman was friendly with Gerrit Rietveld and other members of the Stijl. The story of the white chair is described in the article ‘Til Brugman’s De Stijl Rooms’ by Ludo van Halem, curator of 20th Century Art at Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
When the armchair was first painted in the colours red, blue and yellow is not exactly known. In January 1923 there was an exhibition ‘the practical housewife’ in the Jaarbeurs building on the Vredenburg in Utrecht. The model room on display had been designed by Rietveld, and it is likely that the colours of the chair were adapted to the exhibited paintings in primary colors by Bart Van der Leck.
De NRC in May 1924 first mentioned at an exhibition of the ‘Utrechtse Kunstkring tentoonstelling van kunstnijverheid in het gebouw van Kunsten en Wetenschappen’ (‘Utrecht Art Circle Exhibition of Applied Art in the Arts and Sciences Building’) a Red-Blue Chair as an ‘easy chair made out of coloured planks’.
The name ‘Red-Blue Chair’ wasn’t used until 1958. Rietveld himself told in his guided tour of the Rietveld exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in 1959: ‘A chair like the one you see here, is what we like to call the Red-Blue Chair, a name it has been given over the years’.
The first armchairs and Red Blue chairs were made by Rietveld himself in his workshop on the van Ostadelaan in Utrecht, with assistance of Van de Groenekan and other employees. In 1925 Van de Groenekan took over Rietveld’s workshop and executed Rietveld’s furniture designs during his further career.
In 1972 furniture manufacturer Cassina (Meda, Italy) acquired the reproduction rights for Rietveld designs, as for the Red-Blue Chair. Since 2015 Cassina also produces the Zeilmakers version in black, green and white.
In 2006 the Red-Blue Chair was awarded a place of honour in ‘The Canon of The Netherlands’ as an icon for ‘The Stijl’.
Küper, Marijke. 2011. De stoel van Rietveld/Rietveld’s Chair. NAi Uitgevers/Publishers.
Halem, Ludo van. 2017. “Til Brugman’s De Stijl Rooms: A ‘Flat in The Hague’ With Designs by Theo Van Doesburg, Vilmos Huszár, Gerrit Rietveld, El Lissitzky and Kurt Schwitters, 1923-26”. The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 65 (2):128-67.