Modigliani's Jeanne Hebuterne Easel Chair

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Project by Woodbridge posted 02-26-2013 02:30 AM 4726 views 3 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My second LJ posting was the Three Leg Chair. A traditional three legged chair has more or less vertical legs at each corner of a roughly triangular seat. I wanted wanted to create a strong and stable chair with diagonal legs. There is no visible support at the front of the seat which appears cantilevered from the back legs. A Y shaped stretcher ties the diagonal legs together to form a very solid triangular support structure.

However, I was not satisfied with the top half of the chair. So through last year I developed a series of sketches for a different back designs with plans to build another three leg chair in 2013.

Early this year, still search for a back design, I was sketching some ideas while watching 2004 film Modigliani on TV.

Modigliani is my favorite artist. I love the style of his portraits, the slender figures, elongated swan like necks. Perhaps that explains my preoccupation with slender tall back chairs.

I was not familiar with Modigliani’s tumultuous life, his early death and the tragic demise of his lover and pregnant wife Jeanne Hebuterne, who jumps to her death a day after Modigliani dies.

It inspired me to sketch the image of Jeanne in a Large Hat as the back of my three legged chair.

From there the idea developed. The diagonal leg design of the chair evokes the image of an artist’s easel. The seat becomes the paint palette, with inlays of walnut, cherry, butternut and basswood used to create the intarsia relief carving image of Jeanne Hebuturne wearing a large hat.

Like my recently completed Art Nouveau chair, this chair is made from repurposed mahogany baseboard, thickness planed and then bent laminated to the form the legs and Y shaped stretcher. The seat is made from repurposed mahogany door jambs.

For this version, I have used a Malloof style joint to connect the diagonal legs to the seat, the seat is sculpted differently, and the legs are sloped at 45 degrees to give the chair a wider foot-print. I have added some carving at the bottom of the legs to hopefully give it an Art Nouveau feel. There is no visible support at the front of the cantilevered seat and most people are a little nervous to sit in it. Unlike the first chair I did not have to add gussets to stiffen it. The Maloof style joints have helped to make this chair rock solid.

Jeanne’s face is carved from basswood. Cherry was used for her hair, walnut for her bodice and the hat is butternut.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

23 comments so far

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3939 days

#1 posted 02-26-2013 02:32 AM

Absolutely amazing.

View kiefer's profile


5852 posts in 4008 days

#2 posted 02-26-2013 02:48 AM

I can appreciate the art and feel the strength of this chair .
Wonderful design and execution absolutely beautiful .

-- Kiefer

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 3838 days

#3 posted 02-26-2013 02:56 AM

It’s hard to know what to say about this (other than wow). I am curious about a couple of things. Was it a conscious decision to pierce her hat with the back post? and to make the back quite upright? The bulging (carving) of the leg bottoms is quite beautiful as is the flow of the curved stretcher and the front legs themselves. Did you ever consider making the paintbrush a veneer inlay into the seat? Did you ever consider tutoring someone in the art of making chairs that are beyond belief? We may be only a few miles away as the crow flies but you, are on another planet of skill to mine. Bravo.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View DocSavage45's profile


9071 posts in 4183 days

#4 posted 02-26-2013 03:22 AM

LOL! I’m not even close to gene , and that puts me in the I wish I were in the WOW! galaxy with you.

I loved Modigliani’s work from the day I first saw it in life magazine. Years ago.

You are a Master Chair Maker.

I usually,do a watchlist post, but my mailbox won’t hold the responses.

Get your chairs together and do a show at a gallery or art musium. This is studio furniture at it’s best!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Woodbridge's profile


3751 posts in 3759 days

#5 posted 02-26-2013 03:22 AM

Thanks for the comments.
gene – yes the decision to pierce the hat with the back post was a conscious one. I though it wood add some additional interest rather than simply having the carving appeared stuck on. ( There was a difference of opinio on this detail in my home). There is a slight slope to the back, but I was limited to the thickness of the reused baseboard. The stock that I was using was three inches thick. From the front of the back post where it joins the seat, the three inch thick back tapers to a thickness of about 1 inch. I did consider trying to inlay the paintbrush, but didn’t feel I was ready to try that yet, Also I was trying to get the chair finished up by this week. I am hoping to enter it into the Made of Wood Show (in Alton Mills) and the entry deadline is this week. I’m still learning myself, especially when it comes to finishing. The actual chair was to be so much lighter in colour. I was just trying to even up the colour of the various pieces and before I knew it the chair was way darker than I had wanted. Oh well!

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

#6 posted 02-26-2013 04:23 AM

I like you work !!! Nice design !!! Good luck,Peter.


View greeneyes's profile


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#7 posted 02-26-2013 05:22 AM

Wow. Fabulous chair.

View shipwright's profile


8781 posts in 4139 days

#8 posted 02-26-2013 05:38 AM

Perfect work of art.
I particularly like the palette styled seat.
great functional sculpture.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 4366 days

#9 posted 02-26-2013 05:59 AM

Very cool

-- Dreaming patterns

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#10 posted 02-26-2013 07:21 AM


View Michael's profile


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#11 posted 02-26-2013 08:27 AM

That’s terrific. I feel so inadequate.

-- ~Michael,

View Woodbridge's profile


3751 posts in 3759 days

#12 posted 02-26-2013 01:32 PM

thanks for you kind comments everyone.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View stefang's profile


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#13 posted 02-26-2013 02:03 PM

Inspired artistic chair. Great design and fun with the palette seat and of course the wonderful chair back.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Woodbridge's profile


3751 posts in 3759 days

#14 posted 02-26-2013 07:27 PM

Thanks for your comments

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View greeneyes's profile


8 posts in 3321 days

#15 posted 02-26-2013 10:34 PM

Such a fabulous chair! What was your inspiration and do you plan on any others like this?

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