10 Modernist Masterpieces by Marcel Breuer

Stunning Bauhaus furniture and more

By Google Arts & Culture

Marcel Breuer with his Harem (from l. to r.: Marcel Breuer, Martha Erps, Katt Both, Ruth Hollos) (1926) by Erich Consemüller (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

In 1920, the young Marcel Breuer applied to study at Walter Gropius' new art school, The Bauhaus. The Hungarian artist would go on to create some of the 20th Century's most radical, most influential interior design. In the 21st Century, we're all living in Breuer's shadow.

Armchair, Model B4 (ca.1927-1928) by Marcel BreuerBrooklyn Museum

Breuer excelled at the Bauhaus, and quickly joined the staff. It was in 1925 while working as the head of the cabinet-making workshop that he created his most famous work, the Model B3 Chair, also known as the Wassily Chair - an inspired steel-tube and waxed-cotton construction.

B5 (1926–27) by Marcel BreuerCooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Breuer was fascinated by modern materials and techniques, and his work epitomised the Bauhaus principle of bringing together art and industry. For example, the idea behind his revolutionary bent-steel furniture was borrowed from bicycle makers and plumbers.

Lattice chair ti 1 a and table Ti 9 (1923) by Marcel BreuerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Though Breuer is best-known for steel and glass, he tried out various materials. These stripped-back, rectangular wooden chairs show the influence of the Dutch designers Gerrit Rietveld and Theo van Doesburg.

Cabinet from the living room in the experimental House Am Horn (1923) by Breuer, Marcel (design), Bauhaus Weimar, joinery (made), and Oschmann, Gerhard (reconstruction)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Though he always held a fondness, and a business-sense, for chairs, Breuer produced a range of furniture during his time at the Bauhaus. This cabinet was made for the experimental Haus am Horn designed by Georg Muche for the Werkschau exhibition of 1923.

Fuld 'Bauhaus' telephone (1928) by Marcel Breuer & Richard SchadewellPowerhouse Museum

Together with Richard Schadewell, Breuer designed this telephone set. Its smooth black bakelite, Futura font, and combined speaker and receiver represented a sleek, minimalist take on the wooden and metal boxes of earlier years.

BAMBOS Model (1927) by Marcel BreuerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

In 1927, Breuer turned to architecture. The BAMBOS house was designed by Breuer (and others) for the Bauhaus Dessau campus. This prefabricated house was designed for the students, and to visually contrast with the grander buildings that Walter Gropius designed for the tutors.

Table, Model B19 (ca. 1928) by Marcel BreuerBrooklyn Museum

By 1928, Breuer had established a reputation as a designer, and opened his own design studio in Berlin, specialising in furniture and interiors. His vision of a pared-back life spoke to a new generation of distinctly modern aesthetes.

Reclining Chair [Chaise Longue No. 313] (designed 1932; produced by hand in 1933) by Marcel Breuer, produced by Embru-WerkeMilwaukee Art Museum

By the 1930s, the Nazi party were gaining power in local elections across Germany, modernist design was derided, and foreign teachers and students were persecuted. In 1932, the Nazis on the Dessau city council closed the Bauhaus. Breuer, meanwhile, continued to work.

Chaise Lounge (1936/1936) by Marcel BreuerHigh Museum of Art

In 1935, at the suggestion of Walter Gropius, Breuer left Germany for England. There, he joined the Isokon design company and,  inspired by designs by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, started experimenting with bent plywood. Though by 1937, he had moved to the United States.

model 301 (1932-34) by Marcel Breuer (American, b. Hungary, 1902-1981) and Embru-Werk A.G.The Wolfsonian–Florida International University

In the US, Breuer turned to architecture. Working with a variety of high-profile partners and clients he designed nearly 100 buildings. His prolific output ensured that the post-war decades were defined by modernism.

Breuer and Connie (1950)Original Source: Ezra Stoller

All styles come in and out of fashion, but Breuer's use of clean lines, block colours, bent-steel and smooth glass is still seen in homes around the world, whether its in antique mid-century modernist chairs, or flat-packed bookshelves. We live in a world designed by Breuer.

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