[Pècs, Hungary 1902 — New York 1981]
“I have chosen the metal for this chair” as Marcel Breuer wrote in the late years of the ‘20s, “because it fits the characteristics of the modern environment at best. The heavy filling of the traditional armchairs are replaced with fabric sheets stretched on a series of tubular elements made with light metals”. In this short introduction, Breuer was describing his most famous work, the B3 armchair, later renamed WASSILY. He considered his furniture as “The equipment for modern life”:
inexpensive, easily disassembled and healthy.
WASSILY respected the criteria, but at the time it was commercially unsuccessful. Even if it was not an everyday object and in spite of artist’s attention, its innovative shape inspired a new kind of decor. Since then the tubular steel became a symbol of modernity. First Breuer’s modernist models were the original chairs (slatted chair) designed by assembling wooden planks. They were designed in the early 1920s, when Breuer attended the Bauhaus in Weimar.
The chairs seemed minimal and mechanical. The sitting and the seatback were made with fabric sheets stretched on the structure, according to the same concept which later was adopted for designing Wassily.
There was no future for Breuer, a Hungarian Jew, in Hitler’s Germany: from Switzerland, in 1935 he emigrated to the United Kingdom and then he moved to the United States following his master Walter Gropius. Here he lectured at Harvard University and he inspired a new generation, such as Philip Johnson, Florence Knoll and Elliot Noyes. After the war he focused his work on architecture and became famous all over the world.