Roger Tallon: Design in Motion on view at the Les Arts Décoratifs

Honoring the Father of French Design

By Rachel Miller

Outside of France, Roger Tallon (1929-2011) may not be as well known as the generation of French designers that preceded him—Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, and the like—but his contribution to the culture of French design is second to none. Often referred to as the “father of French design,” Tallon consistently worked at the forefront of the design industry and, along the way, played an integral role in defining the design profession in France and beyond.

In homage to this unique and influential talent, Paris’s Les Arts Décoratifs has mounted the exhibition Roger Tallon: Design in Motion. Drawing on the vast, career-spanning archives that the designer donated to the museum in 2008, it’s the first major retrospective of Tallon’s work since the early ’90s and features Tallon’s design objects alongside his intricate drawings and models.

Over the course of an illustrious sixty years in the field, Tallon forged a radically new, engineering-driven approach to design. He worked under Prouvé at Technès and consulted for many prestigious, multinational companies, including Caterpillar, Fenwick, Frigidaire, General Motors, Kodak, and Peugeot. Standout projects include his TGV Duplex Train (1994), graphics for Art Press Magazine (1973), 3T Tableware (1967), and Téléavia P111 Portable Television (1963). In the end, Tallon was responsible for more than 400 state-of-the-art and diverse designs—from one of the earliest portable televisions to the award-winning TGV high-speed train—and filed more than 200 patents.

Tallon believed that the essence of good design was problem solving, rather than artistic expression. So it’s ironic that Tallon’s most internationally famous works—especially among design collectors—happen to be the few that were produced as limited editions or one-offs. His Module M400 Series (1964) was originally produced for French filmmaker Raoul Levy’s short-lived nightclub The Garage. Including chairs, stools, tables, lamps, ashtrays, and valets, the collection was later edited and expanded by Galerie Lacloche, which gave rise to Tallon’s now highly collectible Metamorphic Trapezoidal Bed and Helicoid Spiral Staircase (ca. 1966-67). Other artistic designs that have heated up the secondary market are Tallon’s Zombie Chair (1967) and Siège-Portrait (1967), which featured the likeness of renowned French artist and Tallon's close friend César.

With the breadth and depth of his work now on view all in one place, Tallon can claim his rightful place in the international design canon.


Roger Tallon: Design in Motion is on view at Les Arts Décoratifs through January 8, 2017.

  • Text by

    • Rachel Miller

      Rachel Miller

      Rachel is a California native whose passion for travel has led her on some pretty crazy adventures around the world. After living in Korea for three years, she decided on a whim to move to Germany. While she still has a wandering soul, Berlin has captured her heart, and she's decided to make this multicultural hub her permanent home. Most of her free time is spent playing beach volleyball, exploring the city's many arty scenes, and hunting down Berlin's best craft beer.