Ernest Race

Ernest Race (1913-1964) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He took a three-year study in interior design at London's Bartlett School of Architecture, and after graduation was employed as a draughtsman for the lighting firm Troughton & Young, which supplied fittings to many of the leading Modernist architects of the 1930s. Through this career Race was able to meet many of the leading British and émigré European Modernist figureheads, including Walter Gropius and the founder of Isokon, Jack Pritchard. In 1937 Race spent four months in India with his missionary aunt, who ran a weaving village near Madras, and upon his return to London opened a shop in Motcomb Street, Knightsbridge, to sell handwoven textiles and carpets of his own design. The shop, which lasted until 1939, was highly influential.

Race spent the war as a fireman in London. At the war's end Race answered an advertisement in The Times that was to alter his career and establish him as the most innovative British furniture designer of the period. Placed by the engineer, J.W. Noel Jordan, he sought a collaborator who could design utilitarian, mass-produced furniture. In 1946, at the Victoria & Albert Museum's morale-boosting exhibition "Britain Can Make It", Race unveiled his range of cast-aluminium furniture. By 1947 the aluminium was die-cast using a technique previously used for making incendiary bomb casings. The furniture, raised from the floor by tapering legs, had a visual lightness that contrasted greatly with the heavier, lower, pre-war Modernist furniture, precipitating the move towards the Contemporary look of the 1950s. The Antelope chair, featured at the Festival of Britain in 1951, reflected the spirit of the age. With it's slender steel rod frame and balled feet, the Antelope chair echoed the scientific progress of the era into molecular physics.