The biography of Marcel Breuer

May 29, 2023

Designer of the Month - June: Marcel Breuer

Hungarian Marcel Breuer began his career at the Bauhaus School in Weimar but ended up in USA. As a furniture designer Breuer is best known for the Wassily chair from 1925, and the Cesca chair from 1928.

Marcel Breuer began his career with an apprenticeship at the cabinetmaker’s workshop of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar from 1920 to 1923.  In 1921 he designed his first pieces of furniture, including some for Walter Gropius’ house Sommerfield in Berlin. At the age of 20 Breuer presented the Slatted Chair which was shown as one of the key furnishings of the model home Haus am Horn at the Bauhaus exhibition in 1923. Slatted chair is seen as the epitome of the aesthetic and design ideas prevailing at the Bauhaus school at the time. You might say that Breuer´s inspiration from Gerrit Rietveld and the Stijl-Group is obvious.

In 1925 Breuer was named a Jungmeister by Bauhaus Dessau and developed the first of his tubular steel furniture such as the B3 armchair, later known as the Wassily chair. B3 is essentially a club armchair, but is transparent stripped down to its metal frame, and with a seating either made of canvas or leather. Breuer was fascinated by the modern bicycle as a design object, which gave him the idea to use steel tubes in furniture constructions.

During the same year Breuer was commissioned to furnish the new Bauhaus building in Dessau and in the following years he founded the firm Standard Möbel in Berlin to produce his tubular steel furniture. When Walter Gropius resigned as director of the Bauhaus School, Breuer left as well, and from 1928 to 31 he worked from his own studio in Berlin where he designed more steel models such as the B32 Cesca chair. He also designed several interiors.

In 1931 to 1935 Breuer traveled in Spain, North Africa and Greece and lived for periods in Zürich and Budapest. During this time Breuer designs a new collection of aluminium furniture and contributed to the construction and furnishing of the residential houses Doldertal Häuser in Zürich.

In 1935 Breuer immigrated to Great Britain where he designed several plywood furniture for the Isokon Furniture Company. After two years he immigrated again, this time to USA where he took up a partnership with Gropius that lasted until 1941. From 1935 to 1937 Breuer worked as a professor at the department of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Breuer relocated his studio from Boston to New York during 1946, where he in 1948/49 designed a model home, complete with interior design, that was exhibited in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.

From 1952 to 1958 Breuer participated in the construction of the UNESCO building in Paris. From 1962 the Italian firm Gavina began manufacturing the B3 armchair under the name Wassily chair. Later it became a part of the American company Knoll´s furniture range. In 1964 until 1966 Breuer designed the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and opened a branch of his studio in Paris. In 1976 he retired for health reasons, and in 1981 he died at the age of 79.

View more object from Marcel Breuer

Designer of the month
Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen is one of the most known Scandinavian architects and furniture designers of the 20th century with pieces such as the Ant, the Swan and the Egg, as well as buildings such as the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and the Saint Catherine’s College in Oxford.

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