Hailing from Poland, Jorge Zalszupin (1922) exchanged war-torn Europe for Brazil in 1949. After having studied at Bucharest’s Higher School of Arts, and shortly having lived in Paris, Zalszupin arrived in Rio de Janeiro in early February 1949, in the midst of the tumultuous Rio carnival.
With him Zalszupin brought a wardrobe cabinet with a double back filled with smuggled French perfume, hoping it would help him raise some well needed ‘start’ money. However to no avail. As it turned out the Brazilians didn't really appreciate the smell and Zalszupin got stuck with most of the bottles.
Hardly speaking the language and without almost a single dime in his pocket, Zalszupin then decided to write Luciano Korngold, a renowned architect in São Paulo who was also originally from Poland. Luckily for Zalszupin destiny this time showed it’s gentle side and a couple of weeks later Korngold visited Rio de Janeiro for a conference. Impressed by his drawings Korngold hired Zalszupin on the spot. During the following two years Zalszupin didn’t disappoint Korngolds generous gesture and worked passionately at his company as an assistant / architect.
Filled with ambition and because he wanted a larger share of the revenue Zalszupin opened up his own business in 1951, proceeding his work as an architect. Almost naturally Zalszupin also started to work in decoration and design in the years that followed. Although this was not so much on his own instigation, but mostly on the insistence of his clients, who upon finishing the blue prints of their projects asked him to also plan the internal layout. And so Zalszupin began to produce furniture in wood and a few upholstered pieces, under the name L’atelier, at that time still without a store.
The first piece of furniture Zalszupin designed was the now famous Poltrona Dinamarquesa (the Danish chair). The delightful Dinamarquesa took inspiration from Danish furniture making (hence the name). The chair had all the signatures that would later characterise all of Zalszupins work; being sensual and clear lined while emphasising a high level of craftsmanship. To this day it’s the Designer’s favourite piece. Being on a role after the Dinamarquesa chair, Zalszupin designed many more signature pieces during his first year, among them the Poltrona Paulistana. In 1960, now having enough pieces to fill a showroom, Zalszupin opened his first shop in São Paulo.
Although his architectural colleagues didn't want to participate, because they thought the store would be too expensive, Zalszupin pushed through anyway. However with the warnings of his friends in mind, he cleverly decided to sub-let part of the store to share the high cost. Unknowingly this was a great move because as a result a lot more visitors walked through his shop and had the chance to get to know his designs. L’atelier became an almost instant success.
In the years that followed L’atelier opened several two shops and had dfferent representatives in different places in Brazil and even sub licensed some of Zalszupin’s designs in the USA. With work that ranged from chairs, cabinets and tables to plastic ice buckets and cutlery holders.
Working all through the tough years of the military coup, in early 1980’s Zalszupin decided to leave L’atelier. For a short period even relocating to Paris, where he mostly focused on painting.
At this moment Zalszupin lives a peaceful retired life in São Paulo. He is the last of the Brazilian greats that is still alive.
Jorge Zalszupin: Design Moderno no Brasil, Maria Cecília Loschiavo dos Santos, Olhares, Brazil, 2014