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Ralph Rapson's Chairs

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Though plenty of architects turn their attentions to furniture, few can claim authorship of a proper classic. Ralph Rapson, the Minnesotan modernist who designed the original Guthrie Theater and scores of other midwestern gems, is one. His Rapson line for Knoll in 1945 helped bring American modernism into post-war homes. A new show, starting Friday, November 4th at Archer, Washington D.C.'s leading showroom for 20th-century design, celebrates Rapson for his contributions to the art of the chair. The show, "Ralph Rapson: The Architect as Chair Designer", offers a glimpse of Rapson's works, like the Rapson rocker, but also demonstrates what a spectacular draftsman Rapson was. If architecture ever let him down, Rapson could easily have found work as a New Yorker cartoonist. And it was in part his drawings that led him to win the lounge chair design contest Dwell sponsored with Blu Dot in 2007. Have a look at his stellar work and try to get into the exhibition.

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  The chair that caused all the fuss, the Rapson rocker was part of a line Rapson did for Knoll in 1945. It still looks wonderful today.
    The chair that caused all the fuss, the Rapson rocker was part of a line Rapson did for Knoll in 1945. It still looks wonderful today.
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  Here's a fine example of Rapson's architectural drawings populated with furniture and people of his devising.
    Here's a fine example of Rapson's architectural drawings populated with furniture and people of his devising.
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  Many of Rapson's designs never went into production. But that didn't keep the draftsman from putting pen to paper.
    Many of Rapson's designs never went into production. But that didn't keep the draftsman from putting pen to paper.
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  The best.
    The best.
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  Here is where Rapson and his gifts as an illustrator really shine. The people in Rapson's drawings are often as compelling as the furniture itself.
    Here is where Rapson and his gifts as an illustrator really shine. The people in Rapson's drawings are often as compelling as the furniture itself.
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  Here's a pair of Rapson rockers made now by Rapson Inc.
    Here's a pair of Rapson rockers made now by Rapson Inc.
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  Rapson, who only had one arm, was quite careful not to be photographed from his right side. He preferred portraits like this one. Who wouldn't?
    Rapson, who only had one arm, was quite careful not to be photographed from his right side. He preferred portraits like this one. Who wouldn't?
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  Here's an archival shot of the high-backed Rapson rocker.
    Here's an archival shot of the high-backed Rapson rocker.
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  This Knoll print ad from 1945 marries one mid-century star with another: sure we've got Ralph Rapson in moody profile, but check out the signature on the layout and you'll see that Alvin Lustig designed the page.
    This Knoll print ad from 1945 marries one mid-century star with another: sure we've got Ralph Rapson in moody profile, but check out the signature on the layout and you'll see that Alvin Lustig designed the page.
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  Never one to hand out praise, Frank Lloyd Wright does appear to be digging the Rapson rocker. Awesome harp, too.
    Never one to hand out praise, Frank Lloyd Wright does appear to be digging the Rapson rocker. Awesome harp, too.
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  Here's the image Archer has put together to promote the show, which runs from November 4th to December 4th. Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!
    Here's the image Archer has put together to promote the show, which runs from November 4th to December 4th.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

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