Short Chair thumbnail 1
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Design 1900 to Now, Room 74

Short Chair

Chair
1936 (designed), 1936 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This design was Marcel Breuer's first for the progressive furniture company of Isokon. (Jack and Molly Pritchard had established Isokon in Britain in 1931.) The design was a direct translation into plywood of Breuer's steel and aluminium chairs of 1932-1933. It shows the influence of the plywood furniture of Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), the Finnish architect and designer. Aalto's furniture had a soft, organic aesthetic that was more favourably received in Britain than the tubular steel designs from Germany and France. Breuer's chair came in a 'Short' and 'Long' version. Originally it would have been used with a cushion. Only a few were made, because the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 put an end to Isokon's manufacturing.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Laminated birch frame, with zebrano veneer, and moulded plywood seat and back. The seat is 5 ply, cross-grained. The veneers are between 1.5 and 2 mm thick. The frame is 10 ply, laminated. The veneers are between 1.5 and 2 mm thick. There are two vertical struts that support the arms, and one horizontal strut that braces the legs. These are both 7 ply, cross-grained, the veneers between 1.5 and 2 mm thick.
Brief Description
Short Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer, manufactured by the Isokon Furniture Company, moulded birch plywood and laminated birch faced with zebrano veneer, London, designed and made 1936
Dimensions
  • Height: 79cm
  • Depth: 62.5cm
  • Width: 99.5cm
  • This is the depth of the feet only those parts of the chair that are in contact with the floor. width of bottom of frame (not including overhang of seat) width: 82cm
Style
Gallery Label
  • The new tastemakers In Britain between the wars, businesses sprang up to cater to a middle-class market of homemakers with an interest in modern design. Retailers altered their advertising to fit more progressive tastes. Manufacturers adopted new and sometimes cost-effective techniques of making furniture and products. The armchair and freestanding bookcase are by London-based furniture producer Isokon, using new methods of bending plywood. The tea set, produced by pottery entrepreneur Susie Cooper, is made from earthenware, an affordable alternative to bone china. Plywood armchair Short chair, 1936 Designed by Marcel Breuer Manufactured by Isokon Furniture Company, UK Laminated birch and zebrano veneer frame with moulded plywood seat Given by Mr and Mrs Dennis Young Museum no. CIRC.80-1975 Freestanding plywood bookcase Penguin Donkey, 1939 Designed by Egon Riss Manufactured by Isokon Furniture Company, UK Moulded and flat plywood Given by Mr J.E. Tinkler Museum no. W.19:1 to 3-1993 Items from a tea set, about 1938–39 Designed by Susie Cooper Manufactured by Wood & Sons, decorated by Susie Cooper Pottery, UK Earthenware with aerographed and banded decoration Given by Mrs M. Collins Museum no. C.100&A to E-1978 The object sits in the 'Housing and Leaving' section of the Design 1900-Now gallery opened in June 2021.(2021)
  • Text from Plywood: Material of the Modern World (15 July-12 November 2017) SHORT CHAIR 1936 This chair’s thin and light seat was moulded as a single piece of plywood. The strength of the material gives the impression of a seat floating on air, suspended in its frame. Plywood seats for Breuer’s Short Chairs were moulded in batches by the Estonian company Luterma. They were shipped to Britain and then attached to locally-made laminated wood frames. Designed by Marcel Breuer (1902–81) Manufactured by the Isokon Furniture Company London, Britain Moulded 5-ply birch plywood seat/back; 10-ply laminated birch frame, with 7-ply birch plywood struts, faced with zebrano veneer Given by Mr and Mrs Dennis Young V&A: CIRC.80-1975(2017)
Credit line
Given by Mr and Mrs Dennis Young
Production
Reason For Production: Retail
Summary
This design was Marcel Breuer's first for the progressive furniture company of Isokon. (Jack and Molly Pritchard had established Isokon in Britain in 1931.) The design was a direct translation into plywood of Breuer's steel and aluminium chairs of 1932-1933. It shows the influence of the plywood furniture of Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), the Finnish architect and designer. Aalto's furniture had a soft, organic aesthetic that was more favourably received in Britain than the tubular steel designs from Germany and France. Breuer's chair came in a 'Short' and 'Long' version. Originally it would have been used with a cushion. Only a few were made, because the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 put an end to Isokon's manufacturing.
Bibliographic References
  • Wilk, Christopher, ed. . Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 230p., ill. ISBN 085667463X.
  • Wilk, Christopher. Plywood: A Material Story. London: Thames & Hudson / V&A, 2017
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.80-1975

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record createdNovember 27, 2002
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