Brazil may be known for many things, from its genre-spanning musical universe to its mind-boggling nature, but its designers may be the next thing to catch your eye. Brazil’s unique furniture design has been turning heads since the 1960s, and continues to be recognized for its hallmarks and signatures.
SELECTION OF FURNITURE
The 20th-century designer of Brazil created an opulent, tropical alternative to the cool linear stylings of Breuer, Eames, Jacobsen and Le Corbusier, featuring sensuous curves, richly coloured indigenous hardwoods and the luxurious leather and cane used in local craft. Works by Brazil’s midcentury greats, such as Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodrigues, Joaquim Tenreiro and Lina Bo Bardi, have long been pursued by museum curators and specialist collectors.
The Brazilian design quest was for “authentic modernism,” combining lustrous indigenous materials and traditional local craftsmanship with European references and Bauhaus geometries to form an aesthetic all its own. The idea got a boost from two early visits by the Swiss-French midcentury modern architect Le Corbusier.
European immigrants adapted the aesthetic of the old world and used mellifluously named woods such as jacaranda, imbue, cabreuva and roxinho to construct distinct pieces that alluded to the rain forests, gauchos and fishermen of their new home.
Joaquim Tenreiro, a pioneer of furniture design in the mid 20th century, highlighted lightness as “a principal to which I felt modern Brazilian furniture should adhere … lightness which has nothing to do with weight per se, but with grace and functionality in space.” Sensuous curves, tropical woods, woven leathers and traditional techniques like caning and netting were all part of a style that developed in Brazil from the 1940s to the 1970s.
But because the pieces were not made in large numbers and were generally made to order for private homes, not corporate settings, they weren’t readily available or visible outside Brazil. Today, with authorised reissues of the most admired originals and the emergence of a new generation of artist-designers, they seem to have gained new relevance.