René Herbst 1891–1982

René Herbst is synonymous with the emergence of the French modern movement. Born in Paris, he studied architecture in London and Frankfurt before founding Établissements René Herbst which produced his interior and furniture designs. His most well-known design, the Sandows chair celebrated form, function, and the aesthetic of industrial materials featuring tubular steel construction with elastic elements. Today, the iconic work designed in 1928 is held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Herbst produced a range of creative designs including exhibitions, ship cabins, lighting fixtures, and retail store displays. Over the course of his career, he exhibited on numerous occasions at the Salon d’Automne, Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

A pioneer of modernism, in 1930 Herbst joined Robert Mallet-Stevens, Francis Jourdain, and others in founding the significant Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM) as a counter–movement to Art Deco and was president of the UAM from 1946 to 1958. From 1950 to 1966 he was also president of the influential Formes Utiles (French Union of Modern Artists). He was an active humanitarian and believed in the importance of improving the living conditions for the world’s population and he applied this ideology to his design practice. René Herbst died in Paris in 1982 and his personal archives were gifted to the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs.