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architectural art and engraving

Henry P. Glass (1911-2003)

One of the most ingenious inventors and product designers of the twentieth century, Henry Glass often drove his shiny new Volkswagon Beetle from his home in suburban Chicago to appointments with manufacturers in the Loop. He designed the forerunner to his beetle he had in his nineties nearly seventy years earlier, in 1934.

He earned his masters degree at the Architectural College of Vienna, coming to New York in 1939 to eventually work with Gilbert Rohde and Russel Wright. Settling in Chicago in the 1940s, he began his own practice with a design for a block square advertising art studio downtown, followed by hotels in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

His designs for furniture, appliances, showroom exhibits, industrial equipment, housewares, modular building systems, hotels and office buildings alone would guarantee any other commercial designer a permanent place in the industrial arts hall of fame. But Henry Glass is not just any other commercial designer. Never satisfied until he had exploited every molecule of his materials, his results were amazingly farsighted.

In the nineteen forties, his fascination with the lowly hair-pin led to the manufacture of narrow rods of steel into suites of outdoor tables and chairs. Ten years later, he reinvented them to fold totally flat. The properties of plywood inspired him to create a futuristic tree house, Hawaiian vacation shelters and one-piece tables and chairs. His 1957 design for the "Omega" reclining chair married aeronautical engineering to simple belt driven mechanics so that the armrests alone lifted the ottoman. His 1979 'Cricket' outdoor chair for Brown Jordan folded down to a thickness of one inch.

Part science fiction, part class project, his modular systems for housing, sitting, sleeping and dining have inspired countless ideas for clients that stretched the capabilities of the manufacturers to new boundaries of industry.

The Art Institute of Chicago mounted an important exhibition of his work in 2000, acquiring for their permanent collection his student drawings and seminal pieces of his furniture. When asked to exhibit a collection of his designs for 'The Perfect Chair' at ArchiTech, he responded by designing a new one that came to him in a dream. Weeks later, he offered yet another version, this one stackable. The perfect chair for Henry Glass was always the next one he designed.

glass lounger by Henry Glass
Henry P. Glass
Glass Lounger
Pencil on tracing paper, 1957
11 x 14 inches

watercolor chair painting by H. Glass
Pair of chairs
pencil on paper
6.5 x 9.5 inches
c. 1939

Please click on these images below to enlarge.
These are four pencil drawings from a set of 48 available as a single suite:
The Kling Studios, Chicago, 1946
kling studio

kling studio drawing

1950's architectural drawing
1950's architectural drawing

click on image
to enlarge

chair drawing from Henry Glass
chair drawing
pencil on paper
11.5 x 8.5 inches

Lounger from the 1950's
Henry P. Glass
Convertible Deck Chair
Pen and Watercolor, 1941
12 x 10 inches

chair drawing, 1970 style
"Cricket" for Brown Jordan
watercolor, 1977
11 x 9 inches

chalk drawing of chair designs
Collapsible Deck Chair
Pastel with chalk
c. 1940
12.5 x 8.5 in.

red wire chair by Henry Glass
Red Wire Chair
watercolorl on paper
c. 1966
12 1/2 X 10 inches

Link to Henry P. Glass's Obituary from the Chicago Tribune  
Link to The Work of Henry Glass - Mid-Century Modernist  
January 2004 Henry Glass' lovely design world on view by Jenn Q. Goddu, Chicago Tribune  
Link to The Perfect Chair  

David Jameson
ArchiTech Gallery
730 North Franklin suite 200
Chicago, IL 60654

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