Gerbrüder Thonet

Austrian (Founded 1853)

Gebrüder Thonet is a leading European furniture manufacturer. Founded in Vienna in 1853 by Michael Thonet, the furniture maker credited with designing the first bentwood chair, the company is now based in Frankenberg, Germany.

Their best-known designs draw on the bentwood process Thonet developed and eventually patented — in which wood is steamed, bent, and left to harden into curved shapes and patterns most often seen in rocking chairs, cafe chairs, and other ubiquitous forms of light furniture.. While other designers and producers used flat wood components, often hiding joints through carving and veneers, the bentwood process focuses solely on bending wood to create sinuous lines and minimize the number of joints needed for a single construction. Thonet's designs were always geared towards mass production; Gebrüder Thonet eventually used furniture jigs to make interchangeable parts in assembly-line fashion.

Although Thonet died in 1871, the company continued under the stewardship of his sons. Gebrüder Thonet continues to specialize in seating furniture, and produces re-editions of Thonet's designs as well as work by contemporary designers.

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

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