Jean Gillon (Romania, Lasi 1919 – Brazil, São Paulo 2007)

Graduated designer from the School of Fine Arts at the University of Lasi in Romania Gillon moved to Brazil in 1956 and began to create pieces of modern furniture working especially with jacaranda which he used to create furniture and objects. Here he also worked as an architect, developing projects for hotels, as well residences and offices. Gillon also made tapestries and was a painter and sculptor.

Although he was Romanian by birth, architect and designer Jean Gillon’s heart and soul belonged to his adopted country of Brazil. The country’s culture and revered architecture served as a muse for his mid-century furniture designs. Today Gillon ranks among the most interesting figures in Brazilian modernism, which is characterized by sensual forms and beautifully handcrafted chairs, tables, and cabinets built from exotic hardwoods.

Gillon was born in Iasi and graduated from the city’s George Enescu National University of the Arts. He then moved to Paris, where he studied tapestry, worked at the newspaper Le Monde as a cartoonist and moonlighted as a set designer for the Paris Opera Ballet. He eventually left Paris for Vienna, where he studied architecture at the School of Industrial Arts, known today as the University of Applied Arts. In the early 1950s, Gillon was a visiting lecturer at London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts.

In 1956, Gillon moved with his wife and two daughters to São Paulo, where he developed a passion for Brazilian architecture, namely the work of modernists such as celebrated architect Lina Bo Bardi and designer Jose Zanine Caldas. Gillon took on interior decorating projects and formed the Fábrica de Móveis Cidam, which later became Italma Wood Art, in order to design furniture for his clients. Gillon’s furnishings, produced at Italma and also in collaboration with manufacturers such as Probel, were immensely popular and could be found in the planned capital city of Brasilia, a project launched in 1956 by Oscar Niemeyer.

Gillon designed everything from bowls and baskets to centerpieces, tables and other objects and furniture. However, he was best known for his lounge chairs and sofas, including his iconic Jangada chair. Named for the Portuguese word for traditional Brazilian fishing boats, the award-winning Jangada was framed in jacaranda in the late 1960s. The welcoming seat of Gillon’s visually striking trapezoidal lounge chair features plush leather cushions that are supported by nylon fishing rope.

Gillon continued to produce furniture for Italma Wood Art until he retired in 2003. He died in 2007, and today Gillon’s pieces remain highly covetable among interior designers and collectors of modern furniture.