20th Century Design

Stylish Works of Modernist Design at the Fine Art Society

By Sotheby's
Sotheby's upcoming sale, The Fine Art Society: 142 Years on New Bond Street on 5 February, features a selection of unique works by esteemed designers. Read on to discover more.

T owards the second half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, two forward-thinking British designers Edward William Godwin and Charles Rennie Mackintosh began to move away from heavy and overtly elaborate forms, choosing instead to reduce materials and highlight the linear and structural qualities in their designs. The Fine Art Society has long championed both designers whose work graced its New Bond Street rooms over the years. Below are three highlights from this unique period in the history of Design.

1. In the Manner of Edward William Godwin, 'Greek' Chair, Estimate £6,000–8,000

Inspired by a stool depicted on the East Frieze of the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum, Godwin designed a chair that retained only its essential elements, minimising extraneous ornamentation and enhancing the structural qualities of the chair. A slightly later version, this chair was produced in the same style however its maker chose unique materials including rush for the seat. This is the only known example of a chair produced in the manner of Godwin in this format.

2. Attributed to Edward William Godwin (For Collinson And Lock), Rare Seven-Legged Centre Table, Estimate £15,000–20,000

This is the only known seven-legged example of Edward William Godwin’s eight-legged design for furniture manufacturer William Watt. Utilising a minimum of material, the overall form is extremely modern and perfectly encapsulates the Japonism style popular at the time of its execution. Susan Weber Soros, renowned expert on Godwin states ‘Its lack of extraneous ornament, proto-modernist form and overall decorative qualities come purely from the interplay of its minimal and refined structural elements.’

3. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Important Dining Table, Estimate £40,000–60,000

Better known for his designs at the turn of the 20th century, towards the end of his career Charles Rennie Mackintosh produced a small number of works that were quite modernist in their leanings. Mackintosh initially designed a table along with a grouping of related furniture for the industrialist W.J. Bassett-Lowke for his cottage at Roade in 1918. The designs proved popular as two further sets were produced, including this table for Harry F.R. Franklin, director of Bassett-Lowke. The design combines the artist’s clean and rationalist line with the elegance of mother-of-pearl, the only known example with this inlay.

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