The main personality behind the establishment of the world-famous company producing bent furniture was the ingenious inventor, cabinetmaker and furniture designer, Michael Thonet (1796–1871). In 1849, he founded the company “Thonet Söhne” in Vienna, which was later renamed to “Gebrüder Thonet” and, as early as in 1851, he introduced the so-called Viennese chairs of bent wood at the World Exhibition in London, for which he received bronze medal.
Four years later, it was already silver medal and in 1867 in Paris, golden medal for the most famous chair of all times – Chair No. 14. The success of the native from the Rhineland city of Boppard, Michael Thonet, and his five sons reached the highest upswing in Moravia where their factories in Koryčany (1857) and Bystřice pod Hostýnem (1861) gained fame on a global scale thanks to their spirit of enterprise, the vast beech forests and the great skills of the local workers.
The factory in Bystřice pod Hostýnem was the largest one of its kind in its period and became the main development center of the entire company. Thonet and later also his sons ceaselessly worked on perfecting of the way of bending wood. The basic principle of the bent-wood furniture production lies is the technology based on steaming a prism of beech wood with dense steam which results in easier bending of the backrest part. The bending is done with a profilated brick whose shape is copied by a special belt which prevents from breaking the bent wood. Bending the seating part is done in a similar way. The simplicity, elegance, convenience and excellence of execution gained many admirers to the bent furniture worldwide. The furniture found use both in private interiors and in theater halls, coffee shops as well as offices. The First World War temporarily halted the furniture production and, after its end, the company Gebrüder Thonet had to conform to the new economic and political conditions in Europe. In result, the main headquarters of the company moved from Vienna to Brno and the shareholding company Thonet A. G. was established in 1921. Later, this company fused with the Mundus company which had earlier encompassed the significant Thonet’s competition, J. and J. Kohn, thus resulting in the business concern named Thonet-Mundus, Affiliated Czechoslovak Factories Producing Bent-Wood Furniture, shareholding company (Thonet-Mundus, spojené Československé továrny na nábytek z ohýbaného dřeva, a. s.). During the Second World War, the company was managed by an authorized trustee. The period after the war witnessed the establishment of the national enterprise Thonet and eventually, after 1953, the factory was active as TON, national enterprise, i.e. Factories of Bent Furniture (Továrny ohýbaného nábytku).
The heritage of Michael Thonet lives to this day. His ingenious and elaborate technological method of producing bent furniture has been perfected constantly over the years. The, what is today, business company THONET is based in the German city of Frankenberg and also the Gebrüder Thonet in Vienna was reborn. In the Czech Republic it is the TON in Bystřice pod Hostýnem which became a significant European center of production of high-quality furniture of bent wood.
From Prague Art & Design | Prague Gallery Online