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Bauhaus typography collection, 1919-1937

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Finding aid for the Bauhaus typography collection, 1919-1937

Biographical / Historical Note

The Bauhaus was known for its innovative teaching methods and new approach towards art, architecture, and crafts. It was founded in 1919 in Weimar with the city's financial support. In 1928, due to loss of funding, it moved to Dessau where it remained in operation until 1932. The school reopened for a short time in Berlin, but was closed in 1933 by the newly formed Nazi government. László Moholy-Nagy attempted to revive Bauhaus teachings in Chicago in 1937.

Under its first director, the German architect Walter Gropius, new methods of instruction were developed at the Bauhaus based on the premise that art, crafts, and architecture must unite with technology and modern industry geared towards mass production, not only to meet the needs of society, but also to create and shape a new lifestyle. The ideas taught at the Bauhaus and the artistic output of its students and teachers contributed significantly to subsequent developments in architecture, art, industrial and interior design, graphic design and typography. Gropius led the Bauhaus until 1928. His successor was the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer, known for his new functionalist approach to architecture and political views leaning towards Communism. Under political pressure, Meyer was forced to resign in 1930. He was replaced by the German architect Mies van der Rohe.

During the Weimar years typography increasingly gained prominence in the work of the Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy and his student, the graphic designer Herbert Bayer, but a formal workshop for typography was not part of the Bauhaus until 1925. After the school's relocation to Dessau, under Bayer's charge, the newly installed workshop developed into a professional studio for graphic design and commercial art. The study of the communicative potential of letterforms and typographic layout was part of a basic curriculum in the mechanics of visual education. Such innovations as the elimination of capital letters, and the replacement of the archaic Gothic alphabet used in German printing by a modern "cosmopolitan" font, and the concept of composition based on strong geometrical elements and expressive values of colors, testify to a move away from individually handcrafted and traditionally shaped goods towards objects meeting functional requirements suitable for mass production. In this regard, what became known as Bauhaus typography was also part of the social and political reform taking place at the school.

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