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Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings (British , 1905-1976)

Art

Also known as:  Robsjohn-Gibbings; T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings

Biography:
Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings was born in London in 1905. He studied architecture at London University, before working as a salesman for a prominent antique dealer. It wasn’t until he arrived in New York in 1936 that his career would begin to blossom. His first job was helping an American cabinetmaker understand designs based on pictographs found on ancient Grecian pottery. He launched his Madison Avenue storefront in the thirties, selling antiques and modern furniture side-by-side.

It was during this time that his interior design work came into prominence. His encyclopedic knowledge of modern historicism, classical elements, and Art Deco led him to design spaces for Doris Duke, Alfred A. Knopf, and Lily Daché during the 1940s. His liberal use of mosaic floors, sculptural fragments, and classical furniture became ubiquitous inside many New York glitterati’s interiors.

A true polymath, Robsjohn-Gibbings was an architect, author, interior decorator, and furniture designer who helped popularize Art Deco forms in the thirties before becoming chief furniture designer for Saridis -- which brought ancient Grecian furniture design back into the mainstream. His elegant designs mixed the modern and antique in unexpected and remarkable ways. Robsjohn-Gibbings’ style continues to influence modern design long after his passing.

He capitalized on this popularity by publishing his first book, a spoof of design, Goodbye, Mr. Chippendale (1944). In it, he gleefully made fun of the then-popular modernist and Bauhaus-style designs, deeming them lifeless and utilitarian. He would follow this with Mona Lisa’s Mustache: A Dissection of Modern Art (1947), and Homes of the Brave (1953).

In the 40’s and 50’s, Robsjohn-Gibbings designed several pieces for the furniture manufacturer, Widdicomb. The Gibby Lounge Chair (1946) and Mesa Coffee Table (1951) were both artistic and commercial successes, the latter because of its abstract-organic shape, which merged design and art into a luxurious walnut table. During this time, he was honored with the Waters Award (1950) and the Elsie de Wolfe Award (1962).

The 60’s saw Robsjohn-Gibbings return to his original muse, classical Greek furniture yet, this time with Athens-based Saridis. Robsjohn-Gibbings was exacting in his standards, using local walnut, leather, and bronze in the same methods used by the ancient Greeks. This series, entitled Klismos, allowed Robsjohn-Gibbings to merge classical aesthetics with the modern, paring curved furniture down to its essential forms. The series proved popular and is still in production today.

He would move to Greece in 1966 where he worked as Aristotle Onassis’ interior designer. Ever the aesthete, he finished his career in the seventies by writing a series of columns for Architectural Digest -- right up until his passing in 1976.

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