Model B32

Chair
1928 (designed), after 1930 (manufactured)
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Marcel Breuer designed this chair the year after the designers Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe introduced their cantilevered designs to the public in 1927, although it apparently was not manufactured until about 1930. It was an innovative design in several respects. Breuer broke a convention that he himself had introduced: the use of a continuous tubular-steel frame behind the back. In this design he attached to the frame a seat and back made of wood and cane. This resulted in a more complex, more interesting design, in which the textures of the natural materials contrasted markedly with the shiny steel frame. The use of cane would have been, for contemporaries, an unmistakable allusion to nineteenth-century bentwood furniture, made by the firm of Thonet, which had enjoyed renewed popularity among modernist architects.

As a result of a complex series of lawsuits brought by Anton Lorenz, the man who had taken over the fledgling Standard-Mobel company in 1928, Breuer was denied the right to claim the B32 as his own design. This was because in 1929, following the sale of Standard-Mobel to the Thonet company, Lorenz obtained from Stam the rights to Stam's cantilevered chair. Armed with this, Lorenz sued Thonet, asserting that they were, by manufacturing any cantilever chair, infringing his patent rights. Dispirited both by Lorenz's actions (referring to him as 'a patent brigand') and by being dragged into court, Breuer gave up designing in tubular steel. When the court finally handed down its ruling in 1932, Lorenz - as owner of the licence to produce Stam's patented cantilever - legally obtained the sole right to manufacture all rectilinear chairs with only two legs, including the B32. Stam's name therefore replaced Breuer's in the Thonet catalogues. Nonetheless, the chair was still generally published in contemporary and post-war publications as Breuer's design and, later, between 1962 and 1963, production of the B32 resumed under Breuer's name. Since that time it has become one of the most ubiquitous of all modernist chairs.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Chrome-plated tubular steel, bent beech wood, caning
Brief Description
Chair of tubular steel, with seat and back panels of bent beechwood, filled with caning
Physical Description
Cantilevered chair with chrome-plated tubular steel frame and seat, with back panels of black- stained, steam-bent beech frames, in-filled with caning
Dimensions
  • Height: 820mm
  • Width: 470mm
  • Depth: 575mm
Style
Production typeMass produced
Gallery Label
Chair, Model B32 1928 Marcel Breuer (1902-81) Germany Made by Gebrüder Thonet, Frankenberg, after 1930 Chromium-plated tubular steel, bent solid beechwood and cane V&A: W.10-1989(01/01/2006)
Summary
Marcel Breuer designed this chair the year after the designers Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe introduced their cantilevered designs to the public in 1927, although it apparently was not manufactured until about 1930. It was an innovative design in several respects. Breuer broke a convention that he himself had introduced: the use of a continuous tubular-steel frame behind the back. In this design he attached to the frame a seat and back made of wood and cane. This resulted in a more complex, more interesting design, in which the textures of the natural materials contrasted markedly with the shiny steel frame. The use of cane would have been, for contemporaries, an unmistakable allusion to nineteenth-century bentwood furniture, made by the firm of Thonet, which had enjoyed renewed popularity among modernist architects.



As a result of a complex series of lawsuits brought by Anton Lorenz, the man who had taken over the fledgling Standard-Mobel company in 1928, Breuer was denied the right to claim the B32 as his own design. This was because in 1929, following the sale of Standard-Mobel to the Thonet company, Lorenz obtained from Stam the rights to Stam's cantilevered chair. Armed with this, Lorenz sued Thonet, asserting that they were, by manufacturing any cantilever chair, infringing his patent rights. Dispirited both by Lorenz's actions (referring to him as 'a patent brigand') and by being dragged into court, Breuer gave up designing in tubular steel. When the court finally handed down its ruling in 1932, Lorenz - as owner of the licence to produce Stam's patented cantilever - legally obtained the sole right to manufacture all rectilinear chairs with only two legs, including the B32. Stam's name therefore replaced Breuer's in the Thonet catalogues. Nonetheless, the chair was still generally published in contemporary and post-war publications as Breuer's design and, later, between 1962 and 1963, production of the B32 resumed under Breuer's name. Since that time it has become one of the most ubiquitous of all modernist chairs.
Collection
Accession Number
W.10-1989

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record createdJuly 15, 2005
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