Two Old Rockers

Not Mick and Keith, but two examples of that quintessential American invention, the rocking chair. At first glance these are not the most attractive, nor even the most comfortable, but each has elements of formal design logic that make them interesting.

The first one, dating from the 1870’s, has a fluidity that draws inspiration (perhaps) from the organic form of a tree.  It also reflects, in its curving form, the experience of movement. The most striking feature are the arms, executed in a wave that anticipates a favorite motif of the aesthetic movement.

The second example dating from 1900 takes an entirely opposite approach – fluidity and organic design are rejected in favor of an elemental composition. As an assemblage of ‘sticks’ it is virtually a constructivist piece, a woodsman’s version of Rietveld’s de Stijl chair.  It is an uneasy design that almost challenges the sitter to try rocking without the frame collapsing like a stack of kindling.

The rocking chair offers a wealth of design approaches that could draw upon metaphors of movement or instability, fluidity or rigidity, comfort or unease.  It is curious that the modern movement has left this form behind or, as in the case of the weakly designed Eames rocker, failed to recognize the distinct nature and dynamic of the rocking chair.