Breuer, Marcel


Rare autograph of the modernist Bauhaus School architect!



Condition: Very good
Description:  (1902-1981) Hungarian-born modernist architect and furniture designer. At the Bauhaus he designed the Wassily Chair and the Cesca Chair “among the 10 most important chairs of the 20th century.” Breuer extended the sculpture vocabulary he had developed in the carpentry shop at the Bauhaus into a personal architecture that made him one of the world’s most popular architects at the peak of 20th-century design. His work includes art museums, libraries, college buildings, office buildings, and residences. Many are in a Brutalist architecture style, including the former IBM Research and Development facility, birthplace of the 1st personal computer.

Breuer left home at 18 for artistic training and was one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus, a radical arts and crafts school that Walter Gropius founded in Weimar after WW I. He was recognized by Gropius as a significant talent, quickly made head of the Bauhaus carpentry shop. Gropius was a lifelong mentor for him. After the school moved to Dessau in 1925, Breuer joined older faculty members such as Albers, Kandinsky, and Klee as a Master, eventually teaching in its new architecture department. Recognized for his invention of bicycle-handlebar-inspired tubular steel furniture, Breuer lived off his design fees when architectural commissions were few and far-between.

It was Gropius who assigned Breuer interiors at the 1927 Weissenhof Estate and led him to his 1st house assignment for the Harnischmachers in Wiesbaden in 1932. Sigfried Giedion extended their furniture collaboration at the Wohnbedarf in Zurich to include a furniture showroom and the nearby Dolderthal apartments. Breuer relocated to London 1936, employed by the Isokon company; one of the earliest UK proponents of modern design. He designed his Long Chair and experimented with bent and formed plywood.

In 1937, Gropius became chairman of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and again Breuer followed his mentor to Cambridge, Mass. They formed a partnership that greatly influenced the establishment of an American way of designing modern houses, spread by their great wartime students including Paul Rudolph, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, and others. One of the most intact examples of Breuer’s furniture and interior design work in this period is Pittsburgh’s Frank House in Pittsburgh.

Breuer broke with Gropius in 1941 and moved to New York City in 1946 to establish a practice there for the rest of his life. The Geller House I of 1945 is one of the first to employ Breuer’s concept of the “binuclear” house that became part of the popular modernist style vocabulary. Breuer built two houses for himself in New Canaan, Connecticut: one from 1947-48, the other 1951-52. A demonstration house set up in the MoMA garden in 1949 was dismantled and reassembled on the Rockefeller property in Pocantico Hills. His first 2 important institutional buildings were the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris finished in 1955 and the monastic Master Plan and Church at Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota in 1954. These commissions were a turning point in Breuer’s career: a move to larger projects after years of residential commissions and the beginning of Breuer’s adoption of concrete as his primary medium. Breuer designed the Washington DC US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development HQ building, completed in 1968. While it received some initial praise, in recent decades it has received widespread criticism.

Throughout the almost 30 years and nearly 100 buildings that followed, Breuer worked with a number of partners and associates with whom he openly and insistently shared design credit, though the critics and public rightly recognized a “Breuer Building” when they saw one. Breuer’s architectural vocabulary moved through at least four phases: 1) The white box and glass school of the International style that he adapted for his early houses in Europe and the USA; 2) the punctured wooden walls that characterized his famous 1948 “House in the Garden” for MoMA and a series of relatively modest houses for university faculty families in the 50s; 3) The modular prefabricated concrete panel façades that went on to be used in many of his institutional buildings; 4) The stone and shaped concrete that he used for unique and memorable commissions: his best-known project was, the Met Breuer (formerly the Whitney Museum of American Art).

Breuer was awarded the AIA Gold Medal at their 100th annual convention in 1968 which coincided with general criticism of his willingness to design a multi-story office building on top of Grand Central Station; the project was never built. It cost him many friends and supporters but its defeat by the US Supreme Court established the right of New York and other cities to protect their landmarks. Shortly before his death, he told an interviewer he considered his principal contribution to have been the adaptation of older architects’ work to modern society’s needs.

Frameable rare 3 x 5 signed white card

Type: Signed card





Product Search

Product categories

Quick Links