From the Collection – Marcel Breuer’s Reclining Chair

Marcel Breuer, Reclining Chair, designed 1932. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Friends of Art. Photo by Larry Sanders.

My favorite design objects are those that ring familiar, but also offer a story-telling twist, like Marcel Breuer’s aluminum Chaise Longue No. 313–or Reclining Chair–in our Museum’s permanent collection.

Celebrated for his pioneering tubular steel furniture made at the Bauhaus in the late 1920s, Breuer continued experimenting with new materials through the 1930s. This springy lounge form is better known in the later plywood version by Isokon, but in this aluminum prototype we see Breuer applying his Modernist ideals about manufacture’s inherent link to craft.

Chaise Longue’s slight imperfections tell us it was crafted by hand, but it explores design principles—like simplicity and non-waste—appropriate for mass-production. With the Swiss firm Embru, Breuer entered this design in a 1933 “Best Aluminum Chair” competition organized by a French aluminum trade organization. The clever lounge, with the aluminum “split” to bend vertically up from the horizontal base, took first prize twice from two independent juries.

In form, I love how the horizontal slats form planes that suggest a human casually suspended in space. I’ll admit that I’ve never passed Chaise Longue in our 20th century design gallery and not suppressed an urge to test out the fit!

Mel Buchanan is the Assistant Curator of 20th-century Design. Mel’s curatorial responsibility includes interpreting, displaying, and building the Museum’s collection of craft, design, and decorative objects.

About Mel Buchanan

Mae E. Demmer Assistant Curator of 20th c Design, Milwaukee Art Museum. Lover of museums, objects, and cilantro
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One Response to From the Collection – Marcel Breuer’s Reclining Chair

  1. Peter Lepel says:

    Good morning
    I am very pleased to see our “Aluminim Liege 313″ in your collection.
    Our company developed this furniture with Breuer in 1933. Breuer won the
    competition of the “Alliance Aluminium” Basel (Switzerland), hold in Paris.
    In the one of the juries we saw Le Corbusier, W. Gropius and other architects.
    After this we produced this furniture and similare chairs up to 1940.
    In my book ” über Möbel…1930-1940″ you will find all details of Breuer and also of the
    leading swiss designer.
    Today I am the officer of our big collection of original fotos, leaflets and
    a lot of furnitures from this period.
    If you are interested, I send you some copies from the book (german and english)
    Best regards

    Peter Lepel
    Embru Werke
    CH 8630 Rüti (Switzerland)
    plepel@embru.ch

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