George Nelson – architect and designer, one of the most significant personalities of the 20th century, the man who lent a totally new dimension to the concepts of “design” and “designer” – is today honored as the founder of the American Modernism along with the couple of Charles and Ray Eames’. His studies of architecture at Yale were followed by a study trip to Rome which allowed him for travelling throughout Europe and encountering many pioneers of Modernism like, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti. Upon his return to the United States, Nelson introduced the American society to the significant European representatives of modern architecture and design especially through his book Pencil Points. In the forthcoming years, Nelson gave way to his interest in architecture and applied arts in his books and essays published in magazines focusing on architecture. His book Tomorrow’s House, for example, presents an utterly new concept of interior arrangement which attracted much attention of D. J. De Pree, President of the Herman Miller Society specializing in furniture production. Very early, in 1945, De Pree offered Nelson the post of the chief designer. Nelson accepted and agreed with, what later turned to be, a long-term and successful collaboration with Ray and Charles Eames’, Harry Bertoia, Richard Schultz, Donald Knorr and Isamu Noguchi. This was the most successful period both for the company and for Nelson himself, who turned design into the company’s main driving force. Nelson displayed his extraordinary talent but also his great business flair and foresight after only one-year collaboration with H. Miller’s company, establishing his own George Nelson Associates, Inc. in 1946, which gained fame by countless products that have not only been viewed as the icons of Modernism of the first half of the 20th century but also one of the most significant architectonic works and exhibition projects. The most famous achievements by Nelson are, for example, the “Marshmallow Sofa“, the “Coconut Chair”, his easel and grandfather’s clocks, his “Pretzel Chair”, and his “Bubble Lamps” of transparent white plastic produced in many variants. Nelson’s easel and other clock types occupy a significant place in his oeuvre, where the variety of materials and shapes goes hand in hand with the abundance of ideas and the artist’s sense of play. Nelson’s first clock, designed for Howard Miller in 1947, was followed by more than 150 other designs, amongst them the well-known Clock 4755 notoriously known as the “Ball Clock”. When Miller ceased designing clock during the 1980s, the role of the successor of the discontinued production was taken up by the company Vitra which gratefully came to drew from the collaboration with George Nelson, launched in 1957. Nelson’s rich archives became part of the the Vitra Design Museum after his death in 1986.
* 1908 - 1986, Hartford, Connecticut USA
Yale University, USA
1932 – 1934 - American Academy in Rome, Italy