Within our Fine Art & Antiques sale on the 25th February, the team at Dawsons were excited to offer for sale two examples of a true classic piece of furniture, that is one of the most important and innovative furniture designs of the early 20th century.
Marcel Breuer's 'Long Chair', designed for Isokon, is a simple but brilliant concept utilising the practicality and inherent strength of plywood. A material often disregarded nowadays as a second-rate, sheet building material.
Belonging to a family that lived in North London, the chairs were designed in the Belsize Park area of Hampstead for the Isokon building by Marcel Breuer. Interestingly, the owner of these chairs worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
Breuer was born in Hungary in 1902 and later leaving Hungary to attend the Weimar Bauhaus, a school of design concerned with integrating modern aesthetics in to mass produced items for everyday use. His early designs for wooden lath-built furniture gave way to the experimental use of tubular steel in cantilever chairs, although he was not the originator or pioneer of the use of tubular steel, his 1926 tubular metal chair; initially simply named “Model B3” is better known today as the truly iconic “Wassily Chair” and arguably one of the most recognisable chairs of all time.
During the early 1930s the growing power and influence of the Nazis and the less than conducive atmosphere in Germany in the lead up to the second world war, Breuer fled Germany with some of his colleagues from the Bauhaus including his close friend and founder of the Bauhaus institute, Walter Gropius. They made their new home briefly in Britain during the interwar years before moving to the United States.
Photo: Herbert Behrens / Anefo, CØO
Whilst in Britain they found a kindred spirit in Jack Pritchard, co-owner of Isokon a London based company engaged in architectural design and later furniture production. Marcel Breuer produced the initial “Long Chair” design in Switzerland in 1933 but that version drew its strength from its aluminium frame. It was, however in Britain that he refined the design doing away with the Aluminium frame in his version designed for Isokon between 1935 and 1936. Being specifically designed to be constructed in steam bent and laminated birch faced plywood. A readily available material, since Jack Pritchard was also the marketing manager for an Estonian plywood manufacturer at the time as well as his role as co-director of Isokon.
The chair also came in a shorter variant known simply as “The short Chair” - who would have seen that coming!
The chair works on many levels in as much as it uses the tensile strength created from the lamination of the plywood that suspends the sitter comfortably without the need for springs or any other mechanism. The chair is still in production but pieces of the 1930s are very scarce. Funny to think that Marcel Breuer’s 'Long Chair' is to be seen in the collections of the major design museums of the world and all made from that humble building material plywood.
The team of experts at Dawsons are always happy to provide a free verbal appraisal and auction valuation; regularly consigning an array of wonderful items to our monthly Fine Art & Antiques sale. We can also provide insurance valuations, where required.
Please do get in touch, should you any Fine Art or Antiques that you are keen to have valued. We would love to hear from you.
0207 431 9445 | info@DawsonsAuctions.co.uk