Jean Prouve

(1901 - 1984)

About The Artist

Not only was Jean Prouvé a pioneer in utilitarian home designs for postwar Europe, but he is also responsible for some of the most iconic modern furniture designs of the 20th century. Born and raised in Paris and trained as a metal artisan, he produced his first pieces of furniture from steel at his Nancy, France workshop, established in 1924. In the 1930s, he established the Union des Artistes Modernes and a manufacturing firm, Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, where he produced some of the first prefabricated housing materials. Socially conscientious, his business focused on mass produced furniture pieces for schools, hospitals, and other government buildings. During World War II, he was a member of the French Résistance and as a result of his dedication to the cause, he was appointed mayor of Nancy. Due to the shortage of steel during the 1940s, Prouvé adapted by using wood as his primary furniture material. By 1947, he had established the legendary Maxéville factory, a 25,000 square meter facility used to manufacture prefabricated homes and schools. He also created an assembly line to produce the furniture he would design on site. In addition to his simple, useful, and modern designs, Prouvé was a superb leader. He encouraged design input from his workers and provided them with health insurance and paid holidays. After giving up control of his factory in 1954, Prouvé embarked on a period of his career that would allow him to develop some of his most impressive architectural and design projects, including a spa building at Evian, the furniture for the student dorms at the Maison de la Tunisie and Maison du Mexique at the Cité Universitaire, and chairing the architectural committee to choose the design of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

“Jean Prouvé: French engineer and designer (1901-1984).” Design Museum. The Design Museum, 2007. 3 Sept 2012.