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Bauhaus Furniture

The Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany, was probably the most important school of art, design, and perhaps architecture of the 20th century. Its avant garde designs made a radical break with the antique past and pushed German furniture design firmly into the Modernist camp.

The school, the "Staatliches Bauhaus", existed from 1919 to 1933. The term is based on the verb "to build" and the best translation is probably "Architecture House". The Bauhaus movement artisans emphasised function over form, decoration was discarded in favour of fairly strict use of clean lines, a characteristic of much modernist furniture.

Bauhaus Chair
Bauhaus Chair, 1922, by Marcel Breuer.
Cherrywood, with horsehair and cotton upholstery.
The design of this wooden chair is strongly influenced by the Dutch "de Stijl" group, in particular by the furniture of Gerrit Rietveld. It is a particularly notable example of Modernist furniture, more concerned with artistic expression than comfort.

Chair Designs

The most famous items of Bauhaus furniture are Cantilever chairs and the model B3 chair, also called Wassily chairs.


Cantilever Chair
Cantilever Chair.

Cantilever chairs have no rear legs, relying for support on the tensile properties of steel tubing, the original material from which they were made. Several people can be credited with the development of this type of Bauhaus chair including the Dutch designer Mart Stam in 1926 and also the Hungarian furniture designer, Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) who is one of the most influential furniture designers of the 20th century. Breuer was the first to incorporate tubular steel into furniture design.

Wassily Chairs

Breuer was also responsible for the innovative design of the Model B3 chair, the Wassily. These chairs were radical in their use of bent steel tubes and leather, and methods of making. It is generally believed that Breuer's push-bike was the inspiration for him to use steel tubing to make these chairs.

Wassily Chair
Wassily Chair.

Steel proved to be a useful material for furniture construction with Wassily chairs, like many other designs of the modernist furniture movement, being mass produced in the 1950s and 1960s.

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