rare prototype armchair and side chairHungary/England, 1948
Bakelite-glued birch plywood, caning
22½ w x 22¼ d x 32 h in (57 x 57 x 81 cm)
provenance: Acquired from Marcel Breuer in 1965 by Christine Benglia-Bevington
literature: Marcel Breuer: Furniture and Interior, Wilk, ppg. 163-169 Marcel Breuer: Buildings and Projects 1921-1961, Jones, pg. 249 Prize Designs for Modern Furniture, Kaufmann, Jr., ppg. 56-57
Image courtesy of the Marcel Breuer Papers, Syracuse University Library
The following chairs were acquired in 1965 by Christine Benglia-Bevington, a draftsman in the architectural office of Marcel Breuer (1960-1962/1964-1966). The history of this chair design is a significant one as it marks a point of departure from Marcel Breuer’s early material experiments of tubular steel and molded plywood in furniture design.
In 1945, Marcel Breuer was commissioned to design a house for the Geller family on Long Island. This house was the first independent commission Breuer built during the war. Under material rationing constraints for non-military uses, Breuer developed a new type of construction process. Molded plywood had been a time tested and versatile solution for furniture production, but costs remained high as new tools and molds were needed for each design or alteration of an existing design. The new solution involved laminated plywood that was simply cut out and assembled to form the chair frames.
The initial experiments for the Geller family led to a submission of laminated and cut plywood chairs which were submitted to the Museum of Modern Art’s Low Cost Furniture competition of 1948. Working in partnership with the United States Forest Products Laboratory, Breuer developed a product and construction system that incorporated the strength of cross-laminated plywood adhered with Bakelite glue. The components of the chairs were systematically and economically cut from large sheets of plywood and waste was kept to an absolute minimum. The individual elements were assembled using high-frequency gluing of rubber inserts creating a permanent and durable connection. The Low Cost Furniture chair design was included in the interior furnishings of the House In the Garden, a full-scale exhibition house installed in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.
This armchair and side chairs are prototypes with feet cut flat at the floor.