Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (American, born Germany, 1886–1969), Designer
Tubular steel, painted caning
31 1/2 x 22 x 37 in. (80 x 55.9 x 94 cm)
Purchase, Theodore R. Gamble Jr. Gift, in honor of his mother, Mrs. Theodore Robert Gamble, 1980 (1980.351)
The architect and designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is one of the best-known exponents of International Style modernism. His "less-is-more" philosophy has become a catchphrase for much twentieth-century design, though a preference for luxurious and costly materials often underscores the deceptive simplicity of his elegant and refined designs. Mies' early architectural career in Berlin included training in the office of Bruno Paul from 1905 to 1907 and in the office of Peter Behrens from 1908 to 1911 (where his co-workers included Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius). He opened his own practice in Berlin in 1913 and soon developed a personal architectural idiom that combined the cool rationalism of the nineteenth-century German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel with the pure formalism of the International Style.
From 1926 until 1932, Mies was vice-president of the Deutscher Werkbund, an association of designers and architects whose principal aim was the development of well-designed, mass-producible architecture and household objects by way of an alliance of art and industry. In 1927, the Werkbund presented the influential exhibition Die Wohnung (The Dwelling), which included the Weissenhofseidlung (Weissenhof Housing Estate), an experimental group of model apartment buildings built in a suburb of Stuttgart. Under Mies' direction, a number of important architects, including Mart Stam and Marcel Breuer, collaborated on the project, designing furniture for the apartments. This graceful, elegant, and beautifully proportioned "MR" chair, developed from a 1924 design for a cantilevered chair by Mart Stam, was introduced by Mies at the 1927 Stuttgart exhibition and has remained in production ever since.
Mies was the last director of the Bauhaus design school in Dessau, from 1930 until its closing in 1932. In 1938, he left Germany for America, where he headed the architecture department at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.