For those who didn't get to see the exhibition, the Gallery has kindly allowed us to show a photograph of the chair in situ at the exhibition (see below). The chair was on loan from the Cheltenham Museum & Art Gallery, but was once the property of Ernest Barnsley. The nearby items include portraits of Sir Ebenezer Howard, C.F.A. Voysey and Octavia Hill; the Kelmscott Chaucer cabinet (designed by Voysey) is close by.
A heavily illustrated book accompanies the exhibition, written by Fiona MacCarthy who also curated the exhibition. Yet another surprise – a photograph of Philip Clissett's chair gets a full page to itself. The only other piece of furniture to receive the full-page treatment is a Sussex chair, as sold by Morris & Co.
According to MacCarthy, Clissett's chairs became “a popular equivalent of the Sussex chair … as basic in design and universally affordable”, and “became a potent symbol of the simple life”. They also became “the chair of choice for the Garden City home”, based on their use by the partnership of Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin (as discussed some time ago in this blog).
While it's great to see Clissett's chairs so well appreciated in a major exhibition and book, I do have one or two niggles...
Clissett would never have called himself a “bodger.” He was a chairmaker who made entire chairs from scratch in his own workshop in Herefordshire, rather than turned parts of Windsor chairs in a woodland in the Chilterns .
And in what sense had Ernest Gimson “rediscovered” the ladderback rush-seated “Clissett” chair, and “revived and popularised the design, (in) 1891”? What about the role of Arts & Crafts pioneer James MacLaren who modified Clissett's traditional design, and introduced the chairs to the Art Workers' Guild before Gimson ever saw them there? Personally, I don't believe there is any evidence that Ernest Gimson either made this particular chair, or produced designs for it, though his new designs inspired by it are well known.