Bleached walnut, Tenite (plastic), leatherette
Overall: 39 3/4 x 30 x 41 1/2 in. (101 x 76.2 x 105.4 cm)
Bleached walnut frame with hoop-shaped ends; body of woven Tenite (clear plastic) outlined with brass tacks; hoops and medial stretcher with wide band of sky blue leatherette (faded to green); includes four removable padded bumpers. Hoops cut with channel to hold two adjustable sliding shield of transparent plastic sheeting (now missing). Frame rolls on four metal casters.
The avant-garde interior designer Paul Bry (1899-1953) created this streamlined bassinet and accompanying nursery furnishings for Ilse and George Nelson of New York City. In 1940, the Nelsons held a competition for the commission to decorate their apartment at Park Avenue and 83rd Street. The winner, Austrian Jewish refugee Victor Gruen (1903-1980), was awarded the job of decorating the living room, dining room, and master bedroom, while Paul Bry was offered the nursery. Bry designed all elements of the room, including the bassinet, cabinets, and lighting. Both the bassinet body and cabinet doors feature transparent woven Tenite, a durable plastic first introduced in 1929. Two sliding shields (now missing) of transparent acetate sheeting, held in channels in the hoop-shaped ends, could be pulled around the frame to keep out drafts and dirt. In 1940, the use of plastics in furniture was innovative and newsworthy: the New York Sun illustrated the Nelson's bassinet in an article entitled "Nurseries Use Plastics for Decoration," (31 March 1941). Journals including Newsweek and Modern Plastics also featured the streamlined bassinet. Hygienic, durable, dust-resistant, and washable, plastics were touted as ideal for nurseries. Bry was born in Germany and received a law degree before turning to the study of architecture at Berlin's Decorative Arts School. He moved to Paris in 1933, where he achieved recognition for his interior designs for apartments and stores. He settled in New York in 1938, lured by the invitation of several industrial firms to provide designs for the 1939 World's Fair. Bry relocated with another interior designer, Joachim Hoffman (1908-1995, known as Kim Hoffman and Jo Kim), and formed a partnership with him that lasted until 1945. Both apparently specialized in space-saving designs and modular designs conducive to post-war urban living. In fact, one of Bry's first American projects was to design furnishings for the "Small House of Brick" in the World's Fair's "Town of Tomorrow." The press noted the practicality, comfort, and contemporary look of Bry's furniture, which contrasted blond or bleached woods with vivid background colors and made the rooms seem larger than they actually were.
Gift of Clea James
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.