Australian Fine Artist

History of Art Video Presentation

The Bauhaus was founded in Germany in the early 20th Century. During the 1920s it became the first model for modern art schools with curriculum combining theory with practical workshops drawing inspiration from the ideals of revolutionary art movements.

Artists and craftspeople were integrated to bridge the gap between art and industry. Recent technology was also incorporated rather than relying on more established modes of creating not only paintings but also sculpture,  interior and building design and branching into theatre and music.

Walter Gropius was the initial mind behind the Bauhaus which was not only the name of the movement but the school and building/s which he established. It was his plan to bring out of his experiences of the horror of war a better and more positive use of the “machine” for the betterment of humanity rather than it’s destruction. He used his utopian aspirations to build the art school and write his manifesto in 1919.

Apprentices as they were now called, would learn about their tools as well as the theory of art. Not merely copying from masters of the past, they were encouraged to be more creative in their thinking and didn’t have the limitations of any expectations of society binding their designs or materials. Colour theory, learning about form, shapes and texture were a basis of learning as well as using found materials where ever they could find them (as there was not a lot available at the time for artists to use). Because of this a different kind of student was attracted to the Bauhaus, many found it confronting as it was so different to the social norm of the time.

Artists we now know the names of, such as Klee and Kandinsky taught at the school. Johannes Itten who also taught there and was instrumental in creating the “preliminary course’ where his method of teaching was different from what had gone before in that he used various methods to get his students to relax and didn’t correct his students in a manner that might crush their creativity. He rather brought out common mistakes and corrected the class as a whole. He developed his version of the colour wheel and taught basic shapes to build up images and covered the basics of material characteristics, composition and colour.

In 1920 Oskar Schlemmer was invited to Weimar and the Bauhaus to run the mural-painting and sculpture departments at the School before he headed up the theater workshop in 1923. Oskar had a background in sculpture but was also an accomplished painter and was a very influential teacher at the school. He was interested in the figure and spacial relationships as shown in his work “Egocentric Space Lines’ and this theme was reflected in most of his works from paintings to theatre designs.

Josef Albers was the first graduate to teach at the school. He worked with glass and also designed furniture. He was teaching at the school along with artists such as Kandinsky and Klee, giving the preliminary course in 1923 and in 1925 promoted to professor. He had a keen interest in the use of colour, photography, worked with glass and even objects he found in the local dump. He also designed a typeface as well as furniture and household objects. In 1933 after the Nazi closure of the Bauhaus, he moved to the United States where he went on to train Robert Ruaschenberg of whom we have discussed recently.

A purpose built building was designed for the Bauhaus in Dessau where architecture became a major subject. All the fittings and furnishings were designed and made by the students and the building is still in existence today. Many other buildings were designed by Bauhaus craftspeople and artists during this period and the basis of the designs was spaces which were kind to the environment, could be quickly and easily built and were ergonomic and pleasant for people to live in. Even with the general acceptance in Dessau because of practices of  mass production and use of technology, the political problems of the time overtook the school.

Many of the teachers and students moved away from Germany to England the United States as the Nazi party took over Germany. The products they produced were still selling to a certain degree, but the views and lifestyles of many were not accepted and were becoming dangerous to express. The final home of the Bauhaus in Berlin ended up being nothing like the original and politics of the day twisted it from the idealist manifesto of it’s originator. It was here that the Bauhaus was again closed. By 1933 the Nazis were in control of the country and the 14 year life of the school was over.

The ideals and ideas of the Bauhaus however have never disappeared. As the teachers and students moved around the world and taught others, we can see new ideas about design, colour, architecture, theatre, music and even film. Chicago, which had suffered major damage due to fire has many classic examples of the influence of the Bauhaus movement. We see it in modern buildings and even in every day graphic design for posters and advertising. The chair you are sitting in may owe it’s design to the Bauhaus craftspeople.

The Bauhaus building is not in use as intended any more and the people have scattered, but all over the world we continue to be influenced by this important movement of the 20th Century.

Question: What do you consider are the significant legacies of the Bauhaus?

1. Minimalism: form follows function

2. Design and functionality

3. Incorporation of technology

4. Blending of discipline (EG: architecture with art)

5. Lack of restriction on artists by societies’ conventions

6. Artists now also trained as craftspeople

7. Introduction of glass and steel

8. As a foundation of technical education as we know it today

9. Architectural legacies in such cities as Chicago

10. Mass production was incorporated into design planning

11. The rise of the arts in the USA (new movements, styles and freedoms plus patronage)


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