The Cantilever Chair: By Mart Stam, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or by Marcel Breuer?

Cesca 1 thanks to

Who of this threesome “invented” the Cantilever Chair?

They knew each other. All three worked for, or with people who worked for, the German Bauhaus.

I looked up the following 3 different language varieties of Wikipedia:

Dutch wiki

  1. Mart Stam

    Stam is the designer of the first cantilever tubular chair. On 22 November 1926 he showed a sketch with a blue pen of it on the back side of the wedding announcement of the German painter Willy Baumeister at a dinner party in the Stuttgart hotel Marquart. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was at that dinner Party. Presently this wedding announcement is reportedly in the Mies van der Rohe archive of MoMa, NYC.
    The first producer of this chair is the German company Lorenz.
    In 1927 both Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe showed their versions of this idea in their respective houses of the Weissenhofsiedlung project in Stuttgart.

  2. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
    Mentions only the design in 1929 of the Barcelona chair (also cantilevered but with flat steel, rather than tubular)
  3. Marcel Breuer
    Mentions the design of a steel tubular chair in 1925 for Wassily Kandinsky, hence known as the Wassily chair that still is in production.

English wiki

  1. Mart Stam

    In the late 1920s, Breuer and Stam were involved in a patent lawsuit in German courts, both claiming to be the inventor of the basic cantilever chair design principle. Stam won the lawsuit, and, since that time, specific Breuer chair designs have often been erroneously attributed to Stam. In the United States, Breuer assigned the rights to his designs to Knoll, and for that reason it is possible to find the identical chair attributed to Stam in Europe and to Breuer in the U.S.

  2. Ludwig Mies van der RoheThrough a redirect to Lilly Reich His personal and professional partner for 13 years:

    Lilly and Mies
    Through her involvement with the Werkbund Lilly Reich also met Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. In 1926 she moved from Frankfurt to Berlin to work with Mies. She was Van Der Rohe’s personal and professional partner for 13 years from 1925 until his emigration to the US in 1938. It is said that they were constant companions, working together on curating and implementing exhibitions for the Werkbund, as well as designing modern furniture as part of larger architectural commissions such as the Barcelona Pavilion in 1929 and the Tugendhat House in Brno.

    Two of their best known modern furniture designs from this period are the Barcelona chair and Brno Chair.

    Albert Pheiffer, Vice President of Design and Management at Knoll, has been researching and lecturing on Reich for some time. He points out that:

    “It became more than a coincidence that Mies’s involvement and success in exhibition design began at the same time as his personal relationship with Reich.”

    “It is interesting to note that Mies did not fully develop any contemporary furniture successfully before or after his collaboration with Reich”.

    When Mies Van der Rohe became the director of the Bauhaus School of design and architecture in 1930, Lilly Reich joined him there as one of the only female teachers. Reich taught interior design and furniture design until the late 1930s.

  3. Marcel Breuer
    Places the design of the Wassily Chair in 1925.

German wiki

  1. Mart Stam
    1926: invented the cantilever chair which Marcel Breuer eventually developped further.
  2. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

    1. MR 10 and MR 20, also known as “Weißenhof-Chair”, cantilever chair of steel with chromium finish: 1927
    2. Barcelona Chair, designed for the German Pavilion of the World Fair of Barcelona, 1929
    3. Brno Chair, for the Tugendhat villa in Brünn, 1930
    4. Four Seasons Barstool, 1958
  3. Marcel Breuer
    1. 1925-28: became head of the furniture department of Bauhaus Dessau.
    2. 1925: Designed the first tubular steel chair B5 and a tubular steel ottomans.

This post is subject to some updates in the future.

Added May 23rd, 2007:

A page of:

Avant-Garde Design and the Law: Litigation over the Cantilever Chair
an article by Otakar Macel in the
Journal of Design History, Vol. 3, No. 2/3 (1990), pp. 125-143
Oxford University Press

at Jstor, a University related retrieval system at this link: Avant Garde Design and the Law sustains the Dutch Wiki version.

The German Thonet Factory has a Bauhaus overview where the design of several chairs is attributed to Marcel Breuer and the Artistic Copyright to Dutch Chair designer Mart Stam, which is probably close to the outcome of the German litigation.

3 thoughts on “The Cantilever Chair: By Mart Stam, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or by Marcel Breuer?”

  1. We have the Cantilever Chair: by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the seat part needs to be replaced. Where can we get replacement parts for these chairs? –Thanks!

  2. There is actually a German language book by the same Otakar Macel which convincingly puts this issue to rest; Ein Stuhl Macht Geschichte. Macel interviewed Bodo Rasch, one of the architects of the Weissenhofsiedlung, who was present at a meeting with Mies and Mart Stam in which Stam made a sketch of the cantilever chair he designed for his wife on a napkin. Mies felt the design was inelegant and made the version with the big curved legs. Breuer was, naturally, jealous since he had been experimenting with tubular steel before Stam. In the biography ‘Marcel Breuer: A Memoir’, one of the partners of the Breuer firm, Robert Gatje, still makes the implausible claim that Breuer designed the cantilever chair and implies that Stam is a bit of a fraud. Given the witness statement of Rasch and the fact that the Stam cantilever appeared in pictures earlier, I do not think that it is plausible that Breuer came up with the cantilever. To the best of my knowledge, the Weissenhofsiedlung features interiors with Stam’s cantilever chair, and with Breuer’s B5, but not yet with the cantilevered Breuer B32 chair. Stam was quite puritanical and did not use the material properties of steel to its full potential. His cantilever chair wasn’t ‘springy’ whereas the B32 by Breuer (later Cesca) was.
    Macel also explains the patent lawsuits between Stam en Breuer extensively in the book.

    1. Thomas I really appreciate it that you took the time to chime in here.

      Some of Macel’s books are extremely expensive. See for instance Amazone For his book “Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture by Otakar Macel (2013-10-31)”

      I Googled Otakar Macel a bit further and I found this via

      Prof. Dr. Otakar Máčel
      Born in Prague 1943, studied Art History from 1960 to 1965 at Masaryk University in Brnó, Czechoslovakia. In 1968, after the occupation of the country by the Soviet Army, he moved to the Netherlands. From 1971 to 2010 he worked at the Faculty of Architecture at TU Delft teaching history of architecture. His 1992 dissertation dealt with the cantilever chair, his 1996 habilitation (TU Prague) with Czech Modern Architecture.

      I have two books from him: The catalogue of the TU Delft collection of chairs and his catalogue of tubular steel chairs…

      I wasn’t aware he has teached 40 years at TU Delft in The Netherlands.

      I also wasn’t aware he wrote a dissertation on the Cantilever Chair.

      At the search another dissertation popped up that is readable in Google Books.

      Mass-produced Aura: Thonet and the Market for Modern Design, 1930–1953,

      a dissertation of 2008 by Ariane de la Belleissue Lourie
      See Google Books

      This dissertation analyzes the exchange between multinational mass-producer Thonet and architects affiliated with the modern movement including Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Gropius, Breuer and Lurcat during the interwar decades. Aura is here considered the equivalent of an intangible asset for Thonet, an asset akin to the “good will,” that, like most assets, require maintenance in order to not degrade in value. Thonet’s brand name held an auratic appeal for progressive architects seeking to ally themselves with the productive capacities and the alluring image of industry during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Thonet, in turn, recognized in these progressive architects a source for new furniture designs and a lever by which to pry open markets such as that of the domestic interior that had previously been closed to the firm. In artfully constructing the auratic appeal of its products in relationship to the new aesthetic championed by modern architects, Thonet functioned as an active agent in shaping a new market for modernist design. Thonet’s corporate strategies and its interaction with European modernist architects in the interwar period prefigure that which emerges in postwar America as the overt integration of modernist design within corporate design culture. Chapters proceed in a roughly chronological fashion, with a focus on Thonet’s activities during the 1930s. Thonet’s repeated encounters with the modern movement involve a cycle that mines the auratic potential of brand, signature, lifestyle and institution in order to cultivate new markets for modernism and making for several fruitful decades of mutual instrumentalization.

      Highly interesting is her story about finding the US Thonet Archive at the house of a former Thonet Employee in York (PA) named Joan Burgasser, Thonet Industrie’s former Director of Design, because the York plant was never rebuilt after it burned down in 1993 (see my 2010 post about a thonet mystery chair).

      Hah. Most likely her name should read as Ariane de la Belle Issue Lourie and currently because of marriage is Ariane Lourie Harrison
      See her Architect Firm Harrison Atelier or Hat.

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