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Rare Alexander Girard Detrola Radio, circa 1946, Modernist



Nice original working condition,, replaced back.. Signed with stamped manufacturer’s mark to underside: [12132]. USA Medium Design/Decorative Art Manufacturer Detrola Radio Alexander Girard American, 1907–1993• A preeminent figure in midcentury American design, Alexander Girard combined a vibrant color palette and folk influences with the sleek and functional work of Herman Miller and Charles and Ray Eames. Girard established a textile division at Herman Miller’s leading design firm and served as its director from the early 1950s through the 1970s, ultimately branching out into his own furniture and industrial design lines. Inspired by the Navajo textiles that he was exposed to while in the southwestern United States, Girard enlivened the more minimalist tendencies of his peers and collaborators with bright colors and graphic prints, pioneering what would become an iconic midcentury design aesthetic. radio, 1946 Teak plywood, upholstery, brass, acrylic, Bakelite 8 × 12 1/4 × 8 in


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About the Designer

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.

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Located in Buffalo, NY
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