The Art of the Chair

book cover for One Vacant Chair by Joe Coomer

I know I’ve mentioned before that I attend a book club at one of the local art museums. What I love about the program is that the books often are selected based on having some tie to art and particularly to the current exhibition. A couple of years ago, we read the book One Vacant Chair, and Joe Coomer himself came to talk at our discussion. The book was so good, and the discussion was one of my favorites. Ever since reading that book I have been struck by images of chairs. I loved the idea in this book of the artist that drew your attention to something so simple, but also so varied and complex, as the chair. This book was one of those that stayed with me, you know the kind I mean.

Recently, through a recent post on Mojito Maven’s blog, I was introduced to the beautiful work of Kimberly Applegate. What I love most about her paintings are not just the vibrant colors and that they are of chairs, but the amazing characterizations she makes of the chairs. Her chairs take on the personality of the art hanging above them. They are fun and whimsical, while also showing a deep love and respect for the pieces she is reproducing. With permission to do so, I wanted to share with you some of my favorites (although it’s so hard to choose!).

painting of a red and white chair with a George O'Keefe red poppy hanging on the wall next to it

I have such a love of Georgia O’Keefe, especially her gorgeous poppy. She, like Frida Kahlo, had such a way with color. And look at the gorgeous chair. Georgia once said (I’m paraphrasing), that she painted big because she wanted people to pay attention to her work. I think that confidence is reflected in this chair, the bold print, the shape, even the legs. This is a chair you pay attention to.

painting of a white wooden chair with pink seat turned toward Ingres's Grand Odalisque on the wall

Ingres’s Grand Odalisque is one of my favorite paintings. The rich and sumptuous detail of his work just sucks me in. That turban of hers, and the peacock fan. When I was in college, working on my art history degree, I wanted to have a collection of odalisque (reclining nude) paintings. There was something about them that I found so sensual and feminine. Another favorite is Modigliani’s Reclining Nude. And what I love most about this particular painting is not just the pairing of a chair with a gorgeous, intricate back, but the position of the chair itself. The chair itself repeats that coy, over the shoulder glance. Love it.

painting of a modern sleek black chair next to  Sargent's Madame X painting

The last one I’ve chosen to share (although I could go on and on and on – there was a beautiful Japanese chair, two lovely chairs that were paired with Vermeers, etc.), showcases a very sleek black chair paired with Sargent’s Madame X. Can I just tell you, that this painting is probably my favorite painting ever. There is something about Sargent’s work that is exquisite. I once wrote a poem comparing Madame X to Countess Olenska in The Age of Innocence. Anyway, I recently got to see the Sargent in person, and it literally stopped me dead in my tracks. While I would never have chosen this chair to pair with it – the choice is perfect! That chair is all about sleek curves. Such an amazing piece. I think too that Madame X is all mystery and apparent indifference to the audience, while the chair itself is also turned slightly away from the viewer, giving nothing.

Art, to me, is like breathing. So, when I stumble across something amazing and beautiful – especially when it touches on something that I already love, it is magical. I hope you take a moment today to pay attention to the ordinary objects around you, and perhaps take a moment to appreciate its beauty. What kind of chair represents you?

1 thought on “The Art of the Chair”

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE these chairs (obvs). When I post pics of our bed room you'll see that we have 9 more of these pics hanging in there.

    my absolute favorites of hers are the ones with Degas. Sigh, i wish i had an original!

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