Model B5 thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Model B5

Chair
1926-1927 (designed), 1926-1927 (manufactured)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This chair was a refinement of the first, somewhat complex tubular-steel chair without arms that Marcel Breuer designed in 1926. That design was used to furnish interiors at the Dessau Bauhaus school and in its masters' houses. The revised design - which changed the form of the front legs and screwed the back legs to the base - might be seen as having been composed from one of Breuer's Bauhaus stools (later nesting table), laid on its side to form the seat and base, to which was added a U-shaped length of tube (turned upside down) comprising rear legs and back. It was simple in appearance and widely used in Breuer's well-published interiors of the period. The chair was made in small batches and retailed by Breuer and Lengyel's Standard-Mobel by mid-1927 and later by the firm of Thonet.

Breuer's establishment of his own furniture firm (small though it was) was the source of great tension between the designer and Walter Gropius, the head of the school, who expected all Bauhaus designers to put their work forward for manufacture or licensing by the school's own limited company, established in 1926 (Bauhaus GmbH). In her diary, Ise Gropius wrote about 'a very unpleasant event with Breuer . . . [who has] made a deal about his metal chairs with a Berlin friend without telling anybody and that will now lead to great difficulties in the negotiations . . . for a Bauhaus GmbH.' She noted the sense of betrayal felt as, 'during the final negotiations [for the new company] one of the most important pieces of the enterprise has been removed'. Although Breuer had been thinking of leaving the Bauhaus since at least November 1926, the incident over the furniture led him to resign formally two weeks later in April 1927, though he was convinced to stay until the end of the next school term.


Object details

Category
Object type
TitleModel B5 (manufacturer's title)
Materials and techniques
Chromium-plated tubular steel, canvas
Brief description
Chair of tubular steel and canvas, model B5
Physical description
Chromium-plated tubular steel chair with black canvas seat and back.
Dimensions
  • Height: 860mm
  • Width: 540mm
  • Depth: 445mm
Measured from object
Style
Gallery label
  • Chair, Model B5 1926-7 Marcel Breuer (1902-81) Though metal had been used previously for outdoor furniture, bringing it into the domestic interior was a radical step. The design of this chair may have come about when Breuer turned one of his stool/tables on its side to form a seat and base. Germany Manufactured by Standard-Möbel, Berlin Chromium-plated tubular steel and canvas V&A: W.61-1977. Given by Mr R.F. Bull(01/01/2006)
  • TWENTIETH CENTURY GALLERY, ROOM 74 Chair Designed by Marcel Breuer (Hungarian, 1902-1981) Probably manufactured by Standard-Mobel & Co., Berlin, Germany, about 1926 Chrome-plated tubular steel and canvas Given by Mr R.F. Bull W.61-1977 Designer's interest in tubular steel was inspired partly by its use in bicycle frames. This chair, intended as a type for standardisation, actually involved considerable hand work, being bent and screwed together. Its marketing extolled its leightweight, cleanliness and comfort, which were claimed to match that of traditional furniture.(01/01/1992)
Credit line
Given by Mr R. F. Bull
Summary
This chair was a refinement of the first, somewhat complex tubular-steel chair without arms that Marcel Breuer designed in 1926. That design was used to furnish interiors at the Dessau Bauhaus school and in its masters' houses. The revised design - which changed the form of the front legs and screwed the back legs to the base - might be seen as having been composed from one of Breuer's Bauhaus stools (later nesting table), laid on its side to form the seat and base, to which was added a U-shaped length of tube (turned upside down) comprising rear legs and back. It was simple in appearance and widely used in Breuer's well-published interiors of the period. The chair was made in small batches and retailed by Breuer and Lengyel's Standard-Mobel by mid-1927 and later by the firm of Thonet.

Breuer's establishment of his own furniture firm (small though it was) was the source of great tension between the designer and Walter Gropius, the head of the school, who expected all Bauhaus designers to put their work forward for manufacture or licensing by the school's own limited company, established in 1926 (Bauhaus GmbH). In her diary, Ise Gropius wrote about 'a very unpleasant event with Breuer . . . [who has] made a deal about his metal chairs with a Berlin friend without telling anybody and that will now lead to great difficulties in the negotiations . . . for a Bauhaus GmbH.' She noted the sense of betrayal felt as, 'during the final negotiations [for the new company] one of the most important pieces of the enterprise has been removed'. Although Breuer had been thinking of leaving the Bauhaus since at least November 1926, the incident over the furniture led him to resign formally two weeks later in April 1927, though he was convinced to stay until the end of the next school term.
Bibliographic reference
Thornton, Peter. ‘A Very Special Year: The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Furniture Acquisitions in 1977’. Connoisseur, vol 198, no 196, June 1978.
Collection
Accession number
W.61-1977

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Record createdJuly 15, 2005
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