Bernard Jones and his ‘Tropical chair’, 1953

The process of conducting research can be an arduous one. Whilst studying in the field of Criminal Justice, my lecturer for criminal law stressed the necessity of basing solid case work on fact and the corroboration of evidence. Essential criteria I would also argue for attaching a designer to a design. It is with this mantra in mind that last year I began my design research into the Hungarian applied artist, George Korody (1890 – 1957). This blog entry is not about Korody per se, but about the evidence that one uncovers along the way in conducting such research. In meticulously documenting a designer’s oeuvre you are always hoping to come across numerous primary sources that provide you with unequivocal information related to your research topic. It is in this quest that I happened upon Bernard Jones and his Tropical chair.

A 1953 newspaper article states that “This chair designed by Bernard Jones of Sydney is claimed to be the first Australian chair specifically built for Australian conditions. It is made from Queensland quandong wood. The stool can be fitted to the chair to make a squatters chair”.[1]

The chair, made of wood and cane, positions the sitter in a comfortable semi-reclining position while providing the eye with a sinuous arc from seat to back leg in one graceful sweep. It appears to have been a well-received design when it was first introduced in 1953 and the following year, the Johnstone Gallery in Brisbane advised clients that the Bernard Jones’ cane chairs and stools had again become available for immediate delivery[2]. It seems that Jones’designs at that time enjoyed some popularity.

According to Patricia Kent’s 1963 article in The Australian Women’s Weekly, ‘Those Artistic Joneses’, Bernard Jones came from a creative family. His mother Marie made period dolls, some of which had been exhibited at Harrods of London. His sisters Roberta and Frances made ceramic tiles that featured in Sydney luxury homes of the period and his brother Paul was described as the finest flower painter of the day. Of Bernard, Kent says that he was a designer and maker of furniture and that miniatures of his designs had been exhibited in the previous year in Sydney’s ‘Exhibition of Rare and Beautiful Things’[3].

The chair, originally introduced in 1953 continued to be referenced at least until 1963 at the time of The Australian Women’s Weekly article, so it appears to have enjoyed a longevity that was rare for furniture of that period.

I commend to you, Bernard Jones’s ‘Tropical chair’, 1953.

With thanks to Dean Keep and Georgy Dumas, RMIT.

Image 1: Collection of the Powerhouse Museum. “Chair and foot stool possibly designed by George Korody, 1949 – 1959”, Registration number, 85/930. Note: Side table pictured by George Korody, circa 1948. This chair and footstool were donated to the Powerhouse Museum with an original receipt from Artes Studios and were originally thought to have been designed by Korody.

Image 2: Bernard Jones with ‘Tropical chair’, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 3 April 1963, p. 9.

[1] ‘In the Sun’, The Courier-Mail,‘Fly a Flag’Supplement, 14 September 1953, p.16.

[2] Queensland Country Life, 29 July 1954, p. 14.

[3] Patricia Kent, ‘Those Artistic Joneses’, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 3 April 1963, pp. 8-9