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Artists Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer

Hungarian-American Designer, Sculptor, and Architect

Marcel Breuer Photo
Movements and Styles: Bauhaus, Modern Architecture

Born: May 21, 1902 - Pecs, Hungary

Died: July 1, 1981 - New York City, USA

"The artist works with the highest level of feeling. The technician works with the highest level of logic."

Summary

His friends and family affectionately called him Lajkó, but the rest of us know him as Marcel Breuer, the Hungarian-American designer whose career touched nearly every aspect of three-dimensional design, from tiny utensils to the biggest buildings. Breuer moved quickly at the Bauhaus from student to teacher and then ultimately the head of his own firm. Best known for his iconic chair designs, Breuer often worked in tandem with other designers, developing a thriving global practice that eventually cemented his reputation as one of the most important architects of the modern age. Always the innovator, Breuer was eager to both test the newest advances in technology and to break with conventional forms, often with startling results.

Key Ideas

Breuer's Wassily Chair (1927-28) became an instant classic of modern design, and even today it remains one of the most recognizable examples of Bauhaus design. For this chair, he used the newest innovations in bending tubular steel for the entirety of the structural frame, thereby demonstrating the possibilities of modern industry applied to everyday objects.
Breuer's early success in education often overshadows his brilliant career as an architect. Although Breuer assumed the role of primary designer for some of his most famous buildings, on several others he was happy to work alongside other giants in the profession, often generously sharing credit with his collaborators - a sharp contrast with many other high-profile architects in the postwar era.
A pioneer of the International Style in his use of steel and glass, Breuer's affinity for concrete later made him a key figure in the emergence of Brutalism, which has drawn criticism due to his designs' heavy-handed massiveness. However, Breuer counterbalanced this tendency in his small-scale houses that are notable for their sensitive handling of traditional materials, such as wood and brick.
Breuer is one of the most important and best-known figures associated with the Bauhaus, where he was first a student and later led the furniture design workshop. His reputation as a teacher was further cemented when he joined Walter Gropius at Harvard University, teaching some of the most successful architects of the postwar era, including I. M. Pei and Philip Johnson .
Marcel Breuer Photo

Marcel Breuer was born on May 21, 1902, in Pécs, Hungary, a small town near the Danube River. After graduating from high school at the Magyar Királyi Föreáliskola in Pecs, Breuer enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna to study painting, where he had been offered a scholarship. He almost immediately disliked the program, however, and within weeks of joining, he left to begin an apprenticeship with a Viennese architect. Breuer was eager to work with his hands and joined the cabinetmaking studio of the architect's brother. At age 18, in 1921, he moved to Weimar, Germany, to enroll at a new school called the Bauhaus, founded in 1919 with a mission to marry functional design with the principles of fine art. Its head, the architect Walter Gropius, immediately recognized Breuer's talent and promoted him within a year to the head of the carpentry shop. At the Bauhaus, Breuer produced the furniture for Gropius' Sommerfeld House in Berlin as well as his acclaimed series of "African" and "Slatted" chairs. But he also became acquainted with many of the most important artists of this era, who likewise worked and taught at the Bauhaus, including Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, and Josef Albers. Breuer later reflected that Klee served as one of his two greatest teachers in life, along with his high school geometry instructor.

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