A reproduction Wassily chair from the 1980’s turned up on Craigslist the other day. Before anyone else could pounce on the deal we snapped it up. It’s a beauty. An amalgam of white leather and steel tubing, the original was a chair ahead of its time. Despite its sleek lines and modern looks, Marcel Breuer designed the Wassily chair while working in the Bauhaus studio in 1925-26.

Wassily Chair Repro
Wassily Chair Repro, White Leather

Bauhaus

Eighteen-year old Breuer began his studies at Bauhaus in the city of Weimar, Germany in 1920. It later moved to Dessau and then Berlin. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus as an arts and crafts school — now regarded as the most influential modernist school in the 20th century. Sadly, the forward-looking school closed its doors in 1933 after the Nazis assumed power.

Bauhaus Dessau
Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany – UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site

Gropius envisioned a confluence of art, society and technology in this school. Masters encouraged students to design highly functional, aesthetically pleasing goods that could be mass produced.

Members of the Bauhaus believed everyday items could be artistic as well as useful. Their work, intended for the populace at affordable prices, had the potential to elevate citizens and society. Envisioning a better tomorrow, they merged art and industry.

Heavy hitters from the art world such as Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus. Students trained in workshops under the supervision of masters. The carpentry, ceramics, metalwork, wall painting and weaving workshops defined the Bauhaus.

Marianne Brant’s tea infuser and strainer, for example, reimagines a teapot by applying  abstract geometrical forms. It’s pleasing to the eye, and offers a functional, dripless container. Only 3-inches tall, it was designed to hold concentrated tea that could be poured into a cup of hot water. This handmade beauty was never mass produced.

Bauhaus tea infuser
Tea infuser and strainer designed by Marianne Brandt, ca. 1924

Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Bauhaus lamp looks contemporary yet, like Brandt’s tea infuser, was designed in 1924. Geometric shapes define it: a round base, cylindrical shaft and spherical shade. The Bauhaus lamp was handmade. Today it is produced by Techno-lumen of Bremen, Germany.

Bauhaus Lamp
Bauhaus Lamp designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, ca. 1924

Marcel Breuer

Graduating the Bauhaus in 1924, Breuer returned in 1925 to become master of the carpentry workshop. Just as significant, that year Breuer bought his first bicycle: light and strong, with handlebars made of tubular steel. He began experimenting with chair designs.

Mass production made me interested in polished metal, in shiny and impeccable lines in space, as new components of our interiors. I considered such polished and curved lines not only symbolic of our modern technology but actually to be technology.” — Marcel Breuer Source

Marcel Breuer Sitting on Model B3 Chair
Marcel Breuer Sitting on Model B3 Chair, 1926

 

With its minimal design, essential lines and planes, and taut canvas the Model B3 Chair proved simple and affordable. In the second half of the 20th century it collected awards from the Museum of Modern Art and was recognized as a “Piece of Art” in (West) Germany in 1982.

Originally known as the Model B3 Chair, its later name of Wassily Chair resulted from an encounter Breuer had with Wassily Kandinsky, artist and Bauhaus master. Kandinsky saw the prototype, admired it, and Breuer made the next one for Kandinsky’s personal quarters. In fact, Breuer furnished the entire Bauhaus with his chairs.

The name change, from the romantic Model B3 Chair to the Wassily Chair, occurred in the 1960s when an Italian manufacturer rereleased it with leather instead of canvas fabric and incorporated the anecdote involving Kandinsky into a name change. Knoll now manufactures it, offering it in leather and cow hide.

Wassily Chair by Knoll
Wassily Chair by Knoll, $2,498

I’ve learned that the Gropius-designed Bauhaus building in Dessau, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, offers a bed-and-breakfast experience. You can “Spend the night like a Bauhausler” and walk in the steps of modernist masters.
Bauhaus Dessau Bauhaus Dessau
Meanwhile, our Wassily Chair repro sits in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. Doesn’t it look inviting?

Wassily Chair Repro
Wassily Chair Repro
Ann Marie and David

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6 Comments on Bauhaus and the Wassily Chair

  1. Susie from The Chelsea Project
    April 3, 2016 at 12:07 pm (12 months ago)

    Wow.. What a great find. And it’s in such good shape!! Love!! Thanks so much for linking to Friday’s Furniture Fix. We love having you share with us. Susie from The Chelsea Project

    Reply
  2. Diana Petrillo
    April 7, 2016 at 1:12 am (12 months ago)

    That chair is amazing, Ann Marie! Great score. I bet an original is in the high thousands of dollars. Love all the background and history SO much–thanks for teaching us all about the Bauhaus movement. I’m thinking some day you’re going to want to go and spend the night at the site’s B & B, right?!! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm 🙂

    Reply
  3. Diana Petrillo
    April 7, 2016 at 1:17 am (12 months ago)

    PS Pinned to my Antique & Vintage Resources Pinterest board and added to my Online Resources button on my blog sidebar 🙂

    Reply
  4. TwoPlusCute
    April 17, 2016 at 3:47 am (11 months ago)

    Not only a great find but an amazing history lesson as well.
    Thank you for this super informative post!
    Very well written. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Mary - The Boondocks Blog
    April 24, 2016 at 8:42 am (11 months ago)

    I love that chair, I had originally read a book about all this called “From Bauhaus to our House” back when I was in college. I bet if I look hard enough for it I will find it. The idea of combining form and function into such glorious pieces was very original back then and such a sleek design at that. Thank you, Ann Marie for bringing us down memory lane.

    Reply
    • irisabbey
      April 24, 2016 at 5:47 pm (11 months ago)

      Isn’t the chair wonderful? Of course, it sold quickly.

      Reply

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