Industrial designer Charles Pollock was born in 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of sixteen, he began working at the Chrysler Corporation, creating visual aids and gaining production experience. Pollock received a full scholarship to study industrial design at the School of Art & Design at Pratt Institute in New York. During a tour of Pratt, industrial designer George Nelson (1908-86) admired Pollock’s work and became a mentoring figure through much of Pollock’s career.
After graduating, Pollock was drafted into the army and became the art director of Infantry Magazine. Upon returning to New York, Pollock began working for Nelson at Herman Miller. Together they experimented with swaging—a technique that Pollock developed at Pratt—which involved using pressure to curve and taper metal tubes. Uniquely splayed tubular steel legs became the focal point of their ten-piece Swag Leg Collection (1958).
Pollock opened his own studio in 1960, and soon after Florence Knoll (b. 1917) of the eponymous manufacturing company took an interest in his designs. With the financial support of Knoll, Pollock became heavily involved in product development. His designs for Knoll include the 657 Sling Chair (1960) and the ergonomic Pollock Chair (1963)—which was held together by a single aluminum band and remains the most successful executive chair to date that is still in production. With Florence Knoll’s retirement in 1965, Pollock relocated to Europe where he went on to design the ergonomic Penelope Chair for Castelli (1982). After a long hiatus, at the age of 82, Pollock debuted the CP Lounge Collection for Bernhardt Design. This was his first product released in America since his Pollock Chair forty-seven years prior.
Often overlooked in comparison to his contemporaries, Pollock was a quiet force driving the midcentury design movement. His work has been exhibited in many museum exhibitions around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris.
Pollock died in 2013 at the age of 83 in New York.