It was sometime in 1950, while playing with a tram ticket, that Grant Featherston came up with the idea to bend and join two pieces of plywood to form the shell of a chair. He patented this method in 1951 and later that year released the R152 Contour chair, the first model in a range that would include, among others, various lounge chairs, a rocking chair and an elegant chaise longue. His designs struck a chord and soon, as the architect Neil Clerehan wrote, ‘no contemporary house was regarded as complete … without a pair of Featherston chairs before its bagged brick fireplace.’
The National Gallery of Victoria holds an extensive collection of furniture designed by Grant Featherston but this example of the R152 is particularly significant due to the fact that it was purchased for the permanent collection in 1955, just four years after this design went into production. Because it has been in the gallery’s collection since it was made – stored in optimal conditions and rarely, if ever, sat on – the chair is in pristine and original condition and as a result, is very rare, if not unique. The Gallery paid £14/1/6 for the chair and with this acquisition, Grant Featherston became the first Australian industrial designer to have his work represented in the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection.
We don’t know who was responsible for recommending the R152 for acquisition but Daryl Lindsay was the director of the National Gallery of Victoria at the time it was purchased. It was a prescient decision however, as the R152 and the extended Contour range, went on to become icons of mid-twentieth century Australian design and this curator at least, is very grateful for the forward-thinking of my predecessors.