For today’s object lesson, we’re doing a deep dive into the mid-century modern with one of the most iconic MCM pieces — the Wassily chair. The chair, created by Marcel Breuer, while he was still an apprentice at the Bauhaus, now considered the most influential design school of the 20th century. The story is that Breuer became inspired to work with tubular steel after falling over the handlebars of his bicycle. He even approached a bicycle manufacturing company, Adler, to manufacture the chair, but the company wasn’t interested in making furniture.
The chair was designed to be a striped down version of an English club chair and it’s somewhat ironic that this piece of furniture, now a symbol of great mass-produced design was entirely handmade, — Breuer welded the chair together at the Bauhaus. The chair was formally named the Model B3, it was only later dubbed the Wassily as a nod to its early champion, the artist Wassily Kandinsky, who was also at the Bauhaus. (In acknowledgement 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 produced by Knoll since 1968.
The chair’s popularity was somewhat of a surprise to Breuer, who said, “I thought this out of all my work would earn me the most criticism, but the opposite of what I expect came true.” See just how versatile the chair is in the slideshow below. For more object lessons, check out Object Lesson: Gingham and Object Lesson: Windsor Chair
Pictured: Wassily detail via Bertrand Benoit