A Reintroduction to Bauhaus

(by Kristen Stain – Dessau, Germany) 

As I mentioned in my previous post, Bauhaus is a particular art movement I’ve had to familiarize myself with. This week we had a refresher lesson on the history of the Bauhaus movement through a documentary film, and then on Thursday, Michael Sans took my class to Dessau for a tour of the former Bauhaus school.  For those unfamiliar with this genre, Bauhaus is a design movement that came after the First World War in 1919. The school existed in three German cities: originally in Weimar 1919 to 1925, Dessau 1925 to 1932 and Berlin from 1932 to 1933, under three different architect-directors; the first being its founder Walter Gropius.

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Wassily Chair - designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926

Wassily Chair – designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926 – Bauhaus photo

Because the First World War was such a deadly conflict — with a casualty rate exacerbated by technological and industrial sophistication, a new road was paved as far as political ideas. Gropius’ experience serving in the war cultivated his ideas about art and the machine coinciding in a beautiful way.   The school attracted the politically radical and those interested in being artistically innovative. The school’s foundation was a bit different from the traditional art school. Students who came to Bauhaus ready to draw and paint were asked to become craftsman first, and become familiar with materials and their characteristics. They were asked to drop all of their preconceived notions of what art was supposed to be, and to think fundamentally, mastering basic shape and color. This training developed the signature Bauhaus style, clean and minimal in nature.

Bauhaus - Dessau

Bauhaus – Dessau

In 1933, the school was closed by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi-led government which had claimed that it was a center of communist intellectualism. The closing of the school did not kill the movement though, and the staff continued to spread its ideals as they moved to different places all over the world, and specifically emanating from Chicago upon moving to the USA.

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During the documentary we watched the night before our visit, I did some comparing and contrasting. I feel blessed to go to a school with a rigorous curriculum that will prepare me for the professional world. Being on the Bauhaus campus was a bit surreal, and I had to keep putting things into perspective. For the early 1900s, the structure itself and everything inside was incredibly bizarre and modern for that time. Because of the movements influence on modern design, it looked so normal, but at the time it was ground breaking.

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Bauhaus is one of the most influential art movements of the 20th Century, and its principles are a part of nearly every design school to this day. Art Center College of Design, is an unofficial child of the Bauhuas.

For more information on the Bauhaus see – http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bauh/hd_bauh.htm

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