Studio Saint James, Neuilly sur Seine vers 1929 ©DR
Pierre Legrain drew inspiration from the work of the Cubists for a number of his armchairs. For Jacques Doucet, his first patron, he designed a cut angles one, covered with luxurious dark leather,visible in period photographies in situ avenue du Bois. Views of Doucet’s studio in Neuilly, dated 1929-1930, show the chair in a new decorative scheme together with a second version in red leather. These two armchairs were all included in the acclaimed auction of the collection of Jacques Doucet in Paris in November 1972. Until now, no other copies of the cut angles ones were known.
The armchairs offered here, of identical form, are not covered with leather but with a beige-yellow “toile enduite” (coated canvas), the same type of material used by Eileen Gray for her Bibendum armchair. Two options present themselves regarding the current lot: are they prototypes, preceeding Doucet’s leather examples? Or is the more modern material a sign of evolution, with the designer moving away from the ostentatious to the more utilitarian work favoured by the UAM? The slight differences in execution of our two armchairs, including the visible stitching at the angle of the arm, is perhaps testament to the developmental nature of the pair, as Legrain took both the design and the characteristics of the material to the limit of possibility. Both our options therefore remain possible.
It is known that after 1923 Legrain adapted some of his creations for Doucet for other collectors who were close to Doucet, like Jeanne Tachard . She commissioned him to re-design two apartments in Paris and later her house in La Celle Saint Cloud, which consisted of three floors. For Pierre Meyer on Avenue Montaigne, Legrain’s last commission, the designer envisioned a more modern installation and conceived avant-garde furniture which included a glass piano, a chromed metal and python skin, console, and a gilt wood corner bookcase. Tachard and Meyer both bought also a pair of Bibendum armchairs from Eileen Gray (Cf. Peter Adam, Eileen Gray architect designer, Abrams, 1987, p. 384). It is possible to imagine the current armchairs fitting perfectly in such environments.
Saint James – Neuilly sur Seine vers 1929 ©DR
The present pair was bought in Paris in several months before the historic sale of the Collection of Jacques Doucet, as attested by the stamps giving instructions for shipping.
Whether early prototypes or later, developmental works, the armchairs are certainly among the iconic creations of Pierre Legrain.