Creative History: The Bauhaus

In 1919 the Bauhaus had little concern for what had come before it. A small collection of artists, designers, and craft teachers thrived at the German school, choosing to throw away the familiar in favour of the alien. A geometric style that was devoid of sentiment, emotion, and social hierarchy. They were designing a new world, one familiar to us today but for the Nazis, they could only see a degenerate vision, rooted in communist ideologies. It more represented their Russian adversaries’ vision of the world. Hitler’s Aryan aspirations were nowhere to be seen.

So in September 1933, Hitler’s forces dismantled the then Berlin-based school. Most of the artists fled to America. The school had closed but the Nazis had certainly failed to silence the work itself. From defiance to defining, the Bauhaus legacy, for better or worse, is all around us today.

Let’s take a look at some of the work of five members of the Bauhaus, work that still feels relevant 100 years later.

Number 1: The Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Prior to starting the Bauhaus, Gropius rose to prominence collaborating with Hannes Meyer designing the exterior of the Faguswerck building. The shoe factory pioneered the modernist building aesthetic.

His ambition was to design a building with a focus on health. A clean space for the working class.

In 1913, Gropius published an article about "The Development of Industrial Buildings," which included about a dozen photographs of factories and grain elevators in North America. This would become required reading for any architect interested in the modernist movement.

After the 1st World War Gropius took over the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts and transformed it into the Bauhaus.

For Gropius, the Bauhaus represented an opportunity to extend beauty and quality to every home, irrespective of class or position, through well-designed industrially produced objects.

Examples of this were the now familiar and globally produced Bauhaus Chair and the common Gropius door handle.

Modernistic design was but only one influence for Gropius at the time. Expressionism also had a huge impact illustrated by his work “Monument to the March Dead”.

Gropius left the Bauhaus in 1928 and moved to Berlin, at which point Hannes Meyer took over the role of Bauhaus director.

Number 2: Abstract Pioneer, Wassily Kandinsky Kandinsky is generally credited as the pioneer of abstract art. The Russian painter and art theorist taught at the Bauhaus school for 10 years beginning in 1922.

One of the biggest influences on Kandinsky was an exhibition of paintings by Monet. The impressionistic style of Haystacks; showed how an object’s color could have a presence of its own—an experience independent of the object itself. Kandinsky would write…

“That it was a haystack the catalog informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendor.” — Wassily Kandinsky

During Kandinsky’s time at the Bauhaus, whilst teaching basic design and advanced color theory, he became extremely important for Abstract Art.