Marcel Breuer was a Hungarian born architect and furniture designer of the modernist Bauhaus movement. He was the number one protégé of the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and worked and taught alongside famous artists such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus school.
Marcel Breuer is the first designer to use tubular steel in furniture design and revolutionize the production of furniture forever with the Wassily Chair. 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. 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”. 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”.
His other important designs from 1925 include the Cesca chair, made of tubular steel and woven cane, and the functionalist Laccio Coffee Table –tubular steel shell nesting tables-. His technique of tubular steel was later used by design giants Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, who were 15 and 16 years his senior. With the rise of the conservative wave in Germany, Breuer, who came from Jewish heritage –although not practicing-, moved his innovative genius to the United States. He started teaching at Harvard, alongside his mentor Walter Gropius, meanwhile acting as architect to many impressive buildings. One of the most intact examples of his furniture and interior design work during this period is the Frank House in Pittsburgh, co-designed with Gropius as a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, meaning a “total work of art”, complete with its interior and exterior in harmony.
In the 1930s, Breuer also designed some birch and plywood furniture, inspired by the bentwood-legged Alvar Aalto designs of the era. Marcel Breuer continued to create, innovate and change the course of art, design and architecture history until his death in 1981. Exhibited in many prestigious museum collections –such as the Whitney or MoMA-, his designs, whether in industrial steel or warm wood, are still just as actual and cutting-edge as he first designed them.