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Alexander Girard

The director of design for the textiles department at Herman Miller, Inc., from 1952 to 1973, mid-century modern visionary Alexander Girard introduced bright, bouncy colors to upholstery and drapery fabrics, created jaunty graphics for marketing and advertising materials and devised motifs for everything from textiles to ceramics based on his true love: folk art from cultures around the globe.

The son of an American mother and an Italian father, Girard (known as Sandro to his friends) was born in New York City in 1907 but raised in Florence. He came from a creative family — his father was a master woodworker — and Girard began drawing and making his own playthings as a youngster. He had a fascination for nativity crèche tableaux, an enthusiasm that likely was the germ for his later interest in folk art. He went on to earn degrees in architecture at schools in both Rome and London before returning to New York in the 1930s and working in interior design.

By the 1940s, he and his wife, Susan, had moved to Detroit, where Girard was head of design for Detrola, a firm specializing in tabletop radios. The elegant bentwood housings that he developed for the devices won him acclaim, but, more importantly, at Detrola he met Charles Eames. The two became lifelong friends, and it was Eames who drew Girard toward Herman Miller, which had no dedicated textile department until Girard arrived, and most of its furniture was upholstered in mundane, “safe” hues. Girard changed all that, introducing fabrics in vivid shades of red, orange, yellow and blue. His early designs incorporated geometric motifs — stripes, circles, square, triangles and such. But toward the end of the 1950s he began to introduce folk art themes into his designs.

Girard did not collect important or expensive folk pieces. Rather he was drawn to simple objects such as handmade toys, figurines and models of animals, buildings and plants. The fabrics that emerged had whimsical, lighthearted motifs depicting, for example, angels, children, birds and flowers. Toward the end of his term with Herman Miller, in an effort to achieve what he termed “aesthetic functionalism,” Girard produced a group of what he called “Environmental Enrichment” pieces — silk-screened cotton panels emblazoned with various graphic designs, from bold geometric patterns to folk art themes. They were meant to divide spaces in offices or the home in lieu of walls while simultaneously functioning as art. Today, panels of vintage Girard upholstery textiles have become premium collectibles. The designer's furniture is less well known, primarily because most of it was created for private commissions.

Girard’s most lasting contribution may be his folk art collection. He and Susan had begun gathering pieces shortly after their marriage, in 1936. By the 1970s, they had amassed the world’s largest collection of cross-cultural folk art, composed of more than 100,000 pieces from around the world. The Girards donated their holdings to the Museum of International Folk Art, in Santa Fe (where they had moved in the ’60s), quintupling the institution’s collection, and a new wing — named for the Girards — had to be built to hold it.

Find a striking range of vintage Alexander Girard seating, tables, textiles and other furnishings on 1stDibs.

Average Sold Price
$997
Styles
Materials
Maharam Pillow, Checker Split by Alexander Girard
By Alexander Girard, Maharam
Located in New York, NY
Maharam Pillow Checker Split by Alexander Girard 001 Black/White Checker Split exemplifies Alexander Girard’s lifelong exploration of geometric motifs. Designed for the Herman Mill...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Alexander Girard

Materials

Cotton, Polyester

Alexander Girard for Braniff Airlines Hexagon Side Table
By Alexander Girard
Located in Seattle, WA
Alongside his contemporaries Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, Alexander Girard was a prominent figure in postwar US design. In a departure from the rather austere Modernist a...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary Swiss Mid-Century Modern Alexander Girard

Materials

Aluminum

Maharam Pillow, Millerstripe by Alexander Girard
By Alexander Girard, Maharam
Located in New York, NY
Maharam Pillow Millerstripe by Alexander Girard 001 Multicolored Girard drew inspiration from his travels to Mexico and India, as well as from his fascination with traditional folk...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Alexander Girard

Materials

Wool, Nylon

Maharam Pillow, Names by Alexander Girard
By Alexander Girard, Maharam
Located in New York, NY
Maharam Pillow Names by Alexander Girard 001 Crimson on White In his design work, Alexander Girard repeatedly explored an interest in the characters and symbols that comprise langu...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Alexander Girard

Materials

Cotton, Polyester

Set of Four Eames / Girard La Fonda Side Chairs by Herman Miller
By Herman Miller, Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard
Located in Highland, IN
This set of four side chairs are the result of the collaboration between Charles and Ray Eames and Alexander Girard when he was designing the interior of La Fonda Del Sol restaurant....
Category

1970s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Alexander Girard

Materials

Fiberglass, Upholstery

Maharam Pillow, Quatrefoil by Alexander Girard
By Alexander Girard, Maharam
Located in New York, NY
Maharam Pillow Quatrefoil by Alexander Girard 001 Silver Alexander Girard drew inspiration from his world travels, as well as from his fascination with traditional folk art. Quatre...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Alexander Girard

Materials

Cotton, Nylon

Maharam Pillow, Double Triangles by Alexander Girard
By Maharam, Alexander Girard
Located in New York, NY
Maharam Pillow Double Triangles by Alexander Girard 001 Black/White Designed by Alexander Girard in 1952 during his tenure as founding director of the Herman Miller Textile Divisio...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Alexander Girard

Materials

Cotton, Polyester

Eames LKH-2 Lounge with Girard Upholstery by Herman Miller
By Alexander Girard, Charles and Ray Eames, Herman Miller
Located in Highland, IN
This terrific example of the Eames LKH-2 easy chair has a black wire seat, a bikini pad in magenta naugahyde designed by Alexander Girard and a zinc lounge height H base. Like Califo...
Category

1960s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Alexander Girard

Materials

Steel

Browse all Furniture from Alexander Girard
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Alexander Girard furniture for sale on 1stDibs

Alexander Girard furniture is available for sale on 1stDibs. These distinctive items are frequently made of Plastic and are designed with extraordinary care. In our Alexander Girard collection, there are many options to choose from, although gray editions of this piece are particularly popular. In-stock we have 1 vintage editions of these items, while there is also 0 modern edition to choose from. Many of the original furniture by Alexander Girard were created in the 1960s in the Mid-Century Modern style in Switzerland. Many customers also consider furniture by Maharam, Michele Varian and Kent Coffey if you are looking for additional options. Prices for Alexander Girard furniture can vary depending on size, time period and other attributes. The price for these items starts at $1,840 and tops out at $1,840, while pieces like these can sell for $1,840 on average.

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