This week’s find is a product of genius, the tubular steel wonder “Wassily Chair” by Marcel Breuer. It is a part of the Mass Modern auction at the Wright on August 11-12. Marcel Breuer is a Hungarian born architect and furniture designer of the modernist Bauhaus movement. He was one of the protégés of the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and worked and taught alongside famous artists such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus school.
Influenced by the constructivist theories of the De Stijl movement and inspired by the frame of the newly procured Adler bicycle, Breuer designed this chair in 1925.
Marcel Breuer is the first designer to use tubular steel in furniture design and revolutionize the production of furniture forever. Steel tubing was first used for hospital furniture as of about 1890, for car seats by Czech manufacturer Tatra starting in 1919, and for airplane seats in the Fokker planes as of 1924. However, when Marcel Breuer designed his steel club armchair, it was an aesthetic turning point. Breuer later said in a documentary of 1926, that with this chair, he wanted the sitter to feel like they are sitting on “springy columns of air”. Influenced by the constructivist theories of the De Stijl movement and inspired by the frame of the newly procured Adler bicycle, Breuer designed this chair in 1925. In that same year – perhaps an inevitable coincidence of history, proving art history develops universally– famous modernist designer Le Corbusier presented a staircase made of tubular steel in the Pavillon de I’Esprit Nouveau in Paris, which was defined to be built “like a bicycle frame.”
On the contrary to the popular belief, the chair was not made for the famous painter Wassily Kandinsky. However, when Kandinsky admired the design, Breuer produced one for Kandinsky’s personal room. When this anecdote became known decades later, the chair earned its name as “Wassily”.