Xavier Pauchard FRANCE (1880–1948)
Xavier Pauchard was born in the thickly wooded Morvan region of Burgundy, France, and began his career as a roofer and zinc worker, like his father and grandfather before him. It’s ironic that a young man who grew up surrounded by innumerable pine forests in an area with a thriving timber industry would go on to become the first manufacturer of galvanized steel domestic goods in France. Or, perhaps his upbringing is what inspired his interest in other materials. Either way, what cannot be debated is the enduring mark Pauchard made on French seating.
The galvanization process that Pauchard brought to France involves taking iron or steel and dipping it in molten zinc to create an incredibly durable outer layer that is almost entirely impervious to degradation. In 1927, Pauchard trademarked the name Tolix and expanded his product line of small household items to include chairs, stools and tables. “One cannot describe Pauchard as an architect, designer or artist,” says French art historian Serge Lemoine, “for he was none of these; he was simply a manufacturer, one who made practical items that would sell. And it is therein that lies the talent of these pioneers: They were able to listen to the market, and to respond to it.”
Still the most enduring of Pauchard’s designs is the A Chair (now the Marais A Chair), which, along with his Fauteuil C (Armchair C), embarked on the SS Normandie in 1935, ultimately crossing the Atlantic 132 times on the ill-fated liner. Though the ship was not a commercial success – it was taken over by the U.S. to be converted into a naval vessel and later burned in New York Harbor in an alleged mob boss sabotage – the Normandie was considered the vanguard of technology, style and sophistication when first built.
After Pauchard’s death in 1948, his sons took over Tolix and continued to create the same hand-built quality seating to their father’s specifications. The company stayed in the family until 2004, when Chantal Andriot took over, reviving and expanding the brand.