Mackintosh-influenced Designs by Limbert
Charles Rennie Mackintosh swept the world of furniture design by storm with his innovative and trendsetting designs in the late 19th century. His designs during this period are a precursor to the English Arts & Crafts Movement and subsequent design movements throughout Europe and America, though they shared the same belief—craftsmanship and practicality are the integral qualities of “good” furniture.
Charles Limbert, who began his career as a furniture salesman, had an acute sense for detecting not only the latest design trends, but also sales strategies. During his frequent trips to Europe in the early 1900s, he was able to experience several different schools of design. Limbert stated in his catalog published in 1905, “We have made a careful study of this distinctive school of design [Arts & Crafts] which is so much cultivated by European artists. In England by the Arts and Crafts Societies—in France it is known as the new Art—in Germany and Austria as Kunst Hardwerk—and in America it is a revival of the Old Mission Furniture found in the missions of California and Mexico”. Limbert made himself stand out from the rest of the American Arts & Crafts furniture makers by incorporating unusual and exotic design elements, namely Mackintosh of Glasgow, Vienna Secession and Dutch folk furniture, even though it meant that he would have to somewhat compromise the structural integrity of his works due to a more delicate assembly style that these designs required.
Between 1904 and 1910, Mackintosh and Vienna Secession-inspired motifs started appearing more frequently in Limbert’s designs, exemplified by geometric cut-outs and slanted triangular or trapezoidal legs. Scholars have noted while his designs may be considered derivative of the earlier designs that were proven successful, it is important to recognize his role in reinterpreting and popularizing the significant European designs to a broader audience in his home country.
Take the two words… And think of them separately and try to define each. You will see that the expression really means that which is beautiful, truly artistic and represents the highest ideals and purest conceptions of a talented master mind, combined with the cleverness, ingenuity and mechanical ability of a well-trained craftsman.
Charles P. Limbert, on Arts & Crafts
Originally from Linesville, Pennsylvania, Charles P. Limbert was born in 1854 into the furniture business. His father was a dealer who trained Limbert once the family moved to Akron, Ohio in 1866. After working at his father’s Akron store, Limbert became a furniture salesman for Munk & Roberts in Connersville, Indiana and later John A. Colby Company in Chicago. In 1899, Limbert and fellow salesman Philip J. Klingman set up a showroom in Grand Rapids, Michigan to exhibit products from several makers. Starting in 1894, Limbert had begun to manufacture his own chairs, which he sold at the Grand Rapids store along with furniture by firms such as Old Hickory Chair Company.
In 1902, Limbert opened his own furniture factory, Charles P. Limbert Co., with around 200 employees in Grand Rapids. The manufacturing plant moved to nearby Holland in 1906. These formative years were the most prolific in the company’s history with the release of the popular Holland Dutch Arts and Crafts Furniture line, which included both indoor and outdoor sets. Influenced by frequent research trips to the Netherlands, Limbert’s style became an amalgam of Dutch and English Arts & Crafts as well as American Mission. To impress upon customers that Limbert furniture was made by hand, the company’s logo featured a man bent dutifully over a workbench. At the Limbert factory, some processes were executed by machine, but all assembly and finishing work was done individually by hand. Until 1915, Charles P. Limbert Co. produced the same models and styles with slight variations, omissions, and additions.
During World War I and into the 1920s, Limbert shifted his focus away from Arts & Crafts lines to follow the market demand for historical furniture styles like Tudor and Renaissance Revival. Limbert was in charge of the company until 1922 when his health began to fail and he passed away the following year. Charles P. Limbert Co. would continue to operate through the 1930s. Furniture from Limbert’s prime Arts & Crafts period is now held in high esteem by collectors and examples are on view at such places as the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art in Denver, Colorado.
Auction Results Limbert