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Chairs - Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Chairs have been a recurring symbol and motif in art throughout history, carrying various meanings and serving multiple purposes. Here are some of the key aspects of chairs in art:


1. Functionality and Design: Chairs are utilitarian objects designed for sitting. In art, they can serve as examples of design and craftsmanship, showcasing the aesthetics and functionality of furniture. Artists may focus on the form, materials, and construction of chairs, highlighting their beauty and innovation.


2. Status and Social Class: In many historical artworks, the type of chair a person is depicted sitting in can symbolise their social status, power, or authority. Elaborate, ornate chairs often indicate high social standing, while simple or rustic chairs may signify humility or a lower social rank.


3. Portraits and Identity: Chairs are commonly featured in portraits. The way a person is seated and the type of chair they occupy can convey a sense of their personality, occupation, or role in society. For example, a throne represents royal authority, while a director’s chair may symbolise someone in the film industry.


4. Absence and Emptiness: An empty chair in an artwork can evoke a sense of absence or loss. It may be used to represent the memory of a departed loved one or an unoccupied space that awaits someone’s return. Such chairs can carry emotional weight in narrative and symbolic art.


5. Surrealism and Symbolism: Surrealist artists, like Salvador Dalí, often incorporated distorted or bizarre chairs in their works to create dreamlike or symbolic imagery. Chairs in surreal art can challenge our perception of reality and invite viewers to explore deeper meanings.


6. Isolation and Solitude: A solitary figure sitting in a chair can convey a sense of isolation or introspection. Artists may use this imagery to explore themes of loneliness, contemplation, or self-reflection.


7. Political and Social Commentary: Chairs can be used as symbols in political and social art. For example, a vacant chair can represent the absence of leadership, while a crowded, uncomfortable chair can symbolise societal issues or injustices.


8. Surrender and Vulnerability: An overturned or fallen chair can suggest chaos, upheaval, or a sense of vulnerability. Such imagery may be used to convey dramatic or emotional moments in narrative art.


9. Metaphorical and Conceptual Art: Some contemporary artists use chairs in conceptual or metaphorical ways. They may deconstruct or alter chairs to explore abstract ideas, challenge norms, or comment on the human condition.

Two Pembroke Studio Chairs from the Moving Focus series by David Hockney
Two Pembroke Studio Chairs from the Moving Focus series, David Hockney, Hamilton-Selway Fine Art
Wrapped Chair (Project) by Christo MLTPL
Wrapped Chair (Project), Christo, MLTPL
Three Seated Figures by Henry Moore Dellasposa Gallery
Three Seated Figures, Henry Moore, Dellasposa Gallery
Broken Deckchair by Fleur Yearsley Jealous Gallery
Broken Deckchair, Fleur Yearsley, Jealous Gallery
Grande odalisque à la culotte bayadère by Henri Matisse Sylvan Cole Gallery
Grande odalisque à la culotte bayadère, Henri Matisse, Sylvan Cole Gallery
Half Table Half Chair by Wang Huai Qing Composition Gallery
Half Table Half Chair, Wang Huai Qing, Composition Gallery
Hand And/or Feet: Chair And Books/plate And Egg, John Baldessari, Kenneth A. Friedman & Co.
Iman, John Swannell, Galerie Prints
Interior: Zebra With Two Chairs And Funky Fur by Mickalene Thomas Tandem Press
Interior: Zebra With Two Chairs And Funky Fur, Mickalene Thomas, Tandem Press
Red Chair by Humphrey Ocean RA Kip Gresham Editions
Red Chair, Humphrey Ocean, Kip Gresham Editions
Electric Chair (fs Ii.76) by Andy Warhol Revolver Gallery
Electric Chair (FS II.76), Andy Warhol, Revolver Gallery
The Dreaming Chair by Beth Carter Sturgis Art Gallery
The Dreaming Chair, Beth Carter, Sturgis Art Gallery