For today’s object lesson, we dive deep into mid-century modernism with one of the most famous MCM pieces – the Wassily chair. The chair, which Marcel Breuer had already designed as an apprentice at the Bauhaus, is now considered the most influential design school of the 20th century. The story is that Breuer was inspired to work with tubular steel after falling over the handlebars of his bicycle. He even reached out to a bicycle manufacturing company, Adler, to make the chair, but the company wasn’t interested in making furniture.
The chair was designed as a striped version of an English club chair and it is somewhat ironic that this piece of furniture, now a symbol of great design in mass production, was entirely handcrafted. Breuer welded the chair together at the Bauhaus. The chair was officially designated as Model B3 and was only later referred to as Wassily as an allusion to its early champion, the artist Wassily Kandinsky, who was also at the Bauhaus. (In recognition of his support, Breuer made Kandinsky a chair for his personal quarters at the Bauhaus.) In early iterations of the chair, the straps were made of canvas but were later changed to leather. It has been mass produced since the late 1920s and has been manufactured by Knoll since 1968.
The chair’s popularity came as a bit of a surprise to Breuer. He said, “I thought this would get me the most criticism in all of my work, but the opposite of what I expected came true.” See how versatile the chair is in the slide show below. For more object lessons, see Object Lesson: Gingham and Object Lesson: Windsor Chair
Pictured: Wassily Detail about Bertrand Benoit
Breuer chairs in the living room
Lesson in white
Wassily side by side
A touch of modernity
Vintage + modern