Bauhaus

“An institute established in 1919 by Gropius from the old Weimar Academy of Fine Arts and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts (which had been established by van de Velde). Gropius’s aim was to unify the teaching of all the arts under the umbrella of design and with an eye to producing for the machine age. The school took some of the ideas of the Arts and Crafts Movement and updated them, producing designs suitable for mass productions and using modern materials like chrome and plastic (including the famous tubular-framed and moulded plastic chairs). In this it shared many of the ideas of de Stijl and the Russian Constructivists. During the 1920s the influence of the School spread, thanks to books published by Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, and to the international staff employed: Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger, Bayer, Breuer and Schlemmer were all teachers there at some time. In 1925, after a dispute over funding and complaints about the lack of success, the Bauhaus moved to new purpose-built premises at Dessau, designed by Gropius and which themselves became models of the new International style architecture. In 1928 Gropius left to pursue his own career and Mies van der Rohe succeeded him as director, but the school began to suffer under the Nazi rule and was closed in 1933. In 1937 Moholy Nagy became the new director of a Chicago branch of Bauhaus.”

Bauhaus and German modernism

After Germany’s defeat in World War I and the establishment of the Weimar Republic, a renewed liberal spirit allowed an upsurge of radical experimentation in all the arts, which had been suppressed by the old regime. Many Germans of left-wing views were influenced by the cultural experimentation that followed the Russian Revolution, such as constructivism. Such influences can be overstated: Gropius did not share these radical views, and said that Bauhaus was entirely apolitical.[5] Just as important was the influence of the 19th-century English designer William Morris (1834–1896), who had argued that art should meet the needs of society and that there should be no distinction between form and function.[6] Thus, the Bauhaus style, also known as the International Style, was marked by the absence of ornamentation and by harmony between the function of an object or a building and its design.

However, the most important influence on Bauhaus was modernism, a cultural movement whose origins lay as early as the 1880s, and which had already made its presence felt in Germany before the World War, despite the prevailing conservatism. The design innovations commonly associated with Gropius and the Bauhaus—the radically simplified forms, the rationality and functionality, and the idea that mass production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit—were already partly developed in Germany before the Bauhaus was founded. The German national designers’ organization Deutscher Werkbund was formed in 1907 by Hermann Muthesius to harness the new potentials of mass production, with a mind towards preserving Germany’s economic competitiveness with England. In its first seven years, the Werkbund came to be regarded as the authoritative body on questions of design in Germany, and was copied in other countries. Many fundamental questions of craftsmanship versus mass production, the relationship of usefulness and beauty, the practical purpose of formal beauty in a commonplace object, and whether or not a single proper form could exist, were argued out among its 1,870 members (by 1914).

A Bauhaus style building in Chemnitz
German architectural modernism was known as Neues Bauen. Beginning in June 1907, Peter Behrens’ pioneering industrial design work for the German electrical company AEG successfully integrated art and mass production on a large scale. He designed consumer products, standardized parts, created clean-lined designs for the company’s graphics, developed a consistent corporate identity, built the modernist landmark AEG Turbine Factory, and made full use of newly developed materials such as poured concrete and exposed steel. Behrens was a founding member of the Werkbund, and both Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer worked for him in this period.

The Bauhaus was founded at a time when the German zeitgeist had turned from emotional Expressionism to the matter-of-fact New Objectivity. An entire group of working architects, including Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut and Hans Poelzig, turned away from fanciful experimentation, and turned toward rational, functional, sometimes standardized building. Beyond the Bauhaus, many other significant German-speaking architects in the 1920s responded to the same aesthetic issues and material possibilities as the school. They also responded to the promise of a “minimal dwelling” written into the new Weimar Constitution. Ernst May, Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner, among others, built large housing blocks in Frankfurt and Berlin. The acceptance of modernist design into everyday life was the subject of publicity campaigns, well-attended public exhibitions like the Weissenhof Estate, films, and sometimes fierce public debate.

Summary of Bauhaus

The Bauhaus was arguably the single most influential modernist art school of the 20th century. Its approach to teaching, and to the relationship between art, society, and technology, had a major impact both in Europe and in the United States long after its closure under Nazi pressure in 1933. The Bauhaus was influenced by 19th and early-20th-century artistic directions such as the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as Art Nouveau and its many international incarnations, including the Jugendstil and Vienna Secession. All of these movements sought to level the distinction between the fine and applied arts, and to reunite creativity and manufacturing; their legacy was reflected in the romantic medievalism of the Bauhaus ethos during its early years, when it fashioned itself as a kind of craftsmen’s guild. But by the mid-1920s this vision had given way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design, and it was this which underpinned the Bauhaus’s most original and important achievements. The school is also renowned for its extraordinary faculty, who subsequently led the development of modern art – and modern thought – throughout Europe and the United States. The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 in the city of Weimar by German architect Walter Gropius (1883–1969). Its core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. Gropius explained this vision for a union of art and design in the Proclamation of the Bauhaus (1919), which described a utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative expression. Gropius developed a craft-based curriculum that would turn out artisans and designers capable of creating useful and beautiful objects appropriate to this new system of living.