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Bauhaus student work, 1919-1933

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Finding aid for Bauhaus student work, 1919-1933

Biographical/Historical Note

The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius as a school of art, architecture, crafts, and theater, with the focus of instruction on the unity of art and technology. Gropius led the Bauhaus until 1928, when he named Hannes Meyer as his successor. Mies van der Rohe replaced Meyer in 1930. The Bauhaus began in Weimar, moved to Dessau in 1925, and closed in 1932. Attempts to revive the school were made in Berlin in 1933 and Chicago in 1937.

The mission of the Bauhaus was to provide courses in the combined constructive arts and crafts. Gropius' goal was to bridge the divide between fine and applied arts, and he envisioned the Bauhaus as a fulfillment of his ideal of a medieval craft guild, where artists and craftsmen worked in unison. Workshops were offered in carpentry, weaving, pottery, and glass-, wall-, and stage painting. Students, known as apprentices or journeymen, were enrolled in specific workshops, which were originally taught by pairs of professors: a Formmeister, a teacher of fine arts, and a Werkstattmeister, a craftsman. After the move to Dessau, the Werkstattmeister became subordinate to the Formmeister, and later workshops were taught by only one professor. Several students continued on at the Bauhaus as professors or workshop masters, including Gunta Stölzl, Margarete Willers, Otti Berger, Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Herbert Bayer, and Joost Schmidt. Every student was required to take the Grundkurs, which was directed by Johannes Itten, assisted by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky from 1919 to 1923, and later led by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1923-1928), and Josef Albers (1928-1932).

The watershed event of the Weimar years was the "Bauhaus Week" held in August, 1923. Exhibits were presented, as well as stagings of Oskar Schlemmers' "Triadic Ballet." Gropius' opening address," Art and Technology - an new unity," announced a change in Bauhaus ideology from the fusion of art and craft to art and industry.

After the move to Dessau, workshops for stained glass and pottery were ended, cabinetmaking and metal were combined into one workshop, and Kandinsky began a "free painting" workshop. The Dessau buildings, designed by Gropius and built 1925-1926, became a manifestation for many of Bauhaus philosophy, teaching and design.

Gropius' successor Hannes Meyer expanded upon his vision of forming closer alliances between the art and industry. Bauhaus weavers designed carpets which were mass-produced by manufacturers, and Bauhaus artists had their wallpaper designs sold in department stores. These efforts enriched the school and allowed them to accept more underprivileged students. Meyer also established a department of architecture and introduced photography to the curriculum. Painting was not encouraged, and Schlemmer left the Bauhaus in 1929 and Klee departed in 1931. Many of the faculty members and students resisted Meyer's rationalism and Marxism, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer and Herbert Bayer resigned in 1928 in protest over his appointment.

In 1930, a coup against Meyer replaced him with Mies van der Rohe. Mies introduced more discipline to the workshops, and the Bauhaus developed into a fairly conventional school of architecture. The metal/cabinetmaking workshop and wall painting workshop were merged into a singular interior design workshop. Nazi pressure on the school increased after the National Socialists gained control of the Dessau parliament, and the school closed at the end of 1932. Mies van der Rohe attempted to revive the school in 1933, but the incarnation was short-lived. Many Bauhaus professors, including Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, and Mies van der Rohe, moved to America.




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