T H E * B A U H A U S * S C H O O L

The Bauhaus School was Germany's most important and most avant-garde art and design school during the 1920s. In existence from 1919, many of its teachers found a new home in the USA when the Nazis forced the school to close in 1933. Radically breaking with the past, the Bauhaus Masters and their students ushered in our modern times. The familiar Bauhaus font seen on the leftish* is only one of the many enduring contributions the Bauhaus has made to our lives. 


Bauhaus is a German expression meaning "house for building." In 1919, the economy in Germany was collapsing after a crushing war. Architect Walter Gropius was appointed to head a new institution that would help rebuild the country and form a new social order. Called the Bauhaus , the Institution called for a new "rational" social housing for the workers. Bauhaus architects rejected "bourgeois" details such as cornices, eaves and decorative details. They wanted to use principles of Classical architecture in their most pure form: without ornamentation of any kind. “A world has been destroyed; we must seek a radical solution,” said the young architect Walter Gropius upon his return from the front in late 1918.


Bauhaus buildings have flat roofs, smooth façades and cubic shapes. Colors are white, gray, beige or black. Floor plans are open and furniture is functional.

Bauhaus buildings have flat roofs, smooth façades and cubic shapes. Colors are white, gray, beige or black. Floor plans are open and furniture is functional.

The Bauhaus school disbanded when the Nazis rose to power. Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and other Bauhaus leaders migrated to the United States. The term International Style was applied to the American form of Bauhaus architecture. The name came from the book The International Style by historian and critic Henry-Russell Hitchcock and architect Philip Johnson. The book was published in 1932 in conjunction with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The term is again used in a later book International Architecture by Walter Gropius.

While Bauhaus architecture had been concerned with the social aspects of design, America's International Style became a symbolism of Capitalism: It is the favored architecture for office buildings, and is also found in upscale homes built for the rich. One of the most famous examples of the style is the glass and bronze Seagram Building in New York, designed by Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson.


Bauhaus in Germany, 1919-33, the most important school of architecture, art and design of the 20th century. Cooperation between architects, painters, sculptors, designers and craftsmen - interplay between art and technology should create a harmonic whole, and all sorts of applied art and artistic products should be summarized into a common manifesto. Design could improve society, not just be a reflection of society. Bauhaus style was characterized by economy of method, a severe geometry of form and design that took into account the nature of the materials employed. The Bauhaus had a great influence on industrial designing and the Bauhaus-ideas about artistic design of everyday objects were spread all over Europe and to the USA.


The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius with a faculty that included Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer.
In 1925 the school was relocated in Dessau where Gropius designed special buildings to house the ...
... various departments. Gropius resigned in 1928, and the leadership was continued by the architect Hannes Meyer, who in turn was replaced in 1930 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The school's concepts aroused strong opposition among e.g. right-wing politicians, and in the summer of 1932 opposition to the school had increased to such an extent that the city of Dessau withdrew its support.

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* Manifesto of the Bauhaus , written by Gropius in April 1919

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The school was then moved to Berlin, where the faculty endeavored to carry on their ideas. In 1933 the Nazi government closed the Bauhaus school in Berlin.
In 1937 Bauhaus was re-established as New Bauhaus in Chicago (now Chicago Institute of Design) the founder and head of the Chicago-school was the Hungarian-American painter, photograph and art critic László Moholy-Nagy. (Bauhaus, Functionalism) ...

A primary goal of the Bauhaus as an educational institution was to articulate modern culture through ‘new' forms designed for everyday life. This virtual installation attempts to address the intersection of fine art and the production of useful things by means of thematic groupings based on visual analogies. The themes themselves are utilitarian, derived from products made by the artists that are represented in the Busch-Reisinger collection—lamp, chair, house, stage, and auto.

Taking advantage of the electronic web environment, this installation combines mixed media, mobility, and linking to an online database. In the first case, the objects are materially diverse, and whereas gallery spaces in the museum tend to create divisions between works often based on medium specificity or fragility, these objects coexist in a virtual space of exhibition. Furthermore, the electronic web environment facilitates the possibility of showing movies in connection with the objects in the museum's collection, such as László Moholy-Nagy's film Lightplay: Black White Gray of 1930. Finally, the installation is augmented by links to other works by the artists in the database that represents the collections of the Harvard University Art Museums. The links in the exhibition text in black send the visitor directly to the collections online, whereas the links highlighted in red connect to objects inside the virtual exhibition.


The organization of the installation highlights the alternately individual and collective aspects of creativity at the Bauhaus, and asks the visitor to consider what other kinds of connections might emerge amongst these objects.


Photo of Seagram Building Copyright © Mary Ann Sullivan
Text Copyright © Jackie Craven

Bauhaus : [Ger., lit. "architecture house", from Bau = building (bauen=to build) + Haus = house.]

Contemporary German architecture set its main trends in the first thirty years of the 20th century. The strongest influences came from Weimar and Dessau , where the Bauhaus school was founded in 1919. Under the leadership of Walter Gropius (1883-1969) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), the Bauhaus style spread to the far corners of the earth. Today masterpieces of its synthesis of architecture, technology and functionality can be found all over the world. One of the main goals of Bauhaus was to renew architecture. The leaders of Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer , Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, were architects.

The origins of Bauhaus were far from the earlier methods of education in industrial art, art proper and architecture. Its program was based on the newest knowledge in pedagogy. The idealistic basis of Bauhaus was a socially orientated program: 
- an artist must be conscious of his social responsibility to the community, 
- on the other hand, the community has to accept the artist and support him. 

But above all the intention of Bauhaus was to develop creative minds for architecture and industry and thus influence them so that they would be able to produce artistically, technically and practically balanced utensils. The institute included workshops for making models of type houses and all kinds of utensils , and departments of advertising art, stage planning, photography, and typography. The neoplastic and constructive movements of art to a great extent steered the form lines of Bauhaus. Teachers were such masters of modern art as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee

To better understand the aims of the Bauhaus school, one has to read the following extracts from Walter Gropius' Manifesto: "The ultimate aim of all creative activity is a building! The decoration of buildings was once the noblest function of fine arts, and fine arts were indispensable to great architecture. Today they exist in complacent isolation, and can only be rescued by the conscious co-operation and collaboration of all craftsmen. Architects, painters, and sculptors must once again come to know and comprehend the composite character of a building, both as an entity and in terms of its various parts. Then their work will be filled with that true architectonic spirit which, as "salon art", it has lost." ... "Architects, painters, sculptors, we must all return to crafts! For there is no such thing as "professional art". There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman." ... "Let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen without the class-distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future together. It will combine architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single form . "

The basic idea of the Bauhaus teaching concept was the unity of artistic and practical tuition. Every student had to complete a compulsory preliminary course, after which he or she had to enter a workshop of his or her choice. There were several types of workshops available: metal, wood sculpture, glass painting, weaving, pottery, furniture, cabinet making, three-dimensional work, typography, wall painting, and some others.

It was not easy to get general allowances for the new type of art education. A political  pressure was felt from the beginning. In 1925 the Thueringer government withdrew its economic support from the education. Bauhaus  found a new location in Dessau. The city gave Gropius building projects: a school, workshop and atelier building (1925-1926) has remained in history by the name 'Bauhaus Dessau'.

In October 1926, the school was officially accredited by the government of the Land, and the masters were promoted to professors. Hence, the Bauhaus obtained the subtitle "School of Design". The training course from then on corresponded to university studies and led to a Bauhaus Diploma. Later this year, because of some political and financial difficulties, the Bauhaus center could no longer remain in Weimar and was closed. In April 1925, Bauhaus resumed its work in Dessau. 

Personal relations in Bauhaus were not as harmonious as they may seem now, half a century later. The Swiss painter Itten and the Hungarian Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who taught the Preliminary Course, left after strong disagreements in 1928, Paul Klee - in 1931. Some, for instance Kandinsky and Albers, stayed loyal until the closing of Bauhaus in 1933.

In spite of the success, Gropius left the Bauhaus leadership in 1928. His successor was the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer. He promoted the scientific development of the design training with vigor. However, Meyer failed as leader due to political disagreement inside Bauhaus. He was dismissed in 1930. 

The German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was invited as director. He was compelled to cut down on the educational program. Practical work was reduced. Bauhaus approached a type of 'vocational university'. It began to loose the splendid universality that had made it so excellent. Training of vocational subjects started to dominate the initial steps of education. As a matter of fact this tendency became stronger after that Mies van der Rohe had transformed the school into a private institute in Berlin in 1932. In 1933 the Nazi government closed the Bauhaus school.

The Nazi majority of Dessau suspended the seat of learning. Paul Schultze-Naumburg was the architect that they sent into the school to re-establish pure German art instead of the "cosmopolitan rubbish" the Bauhaus artists were doing. He described Bauhaus furniture as Kisten, or boxes. Bauhaus was even as private institution so much hated by the National Socialist government that the police closed it up on 11th April, 1933. By September 1932, the Nazis had won a majority in Dessau, and cut off all financial support to the Bauhaus. The school was forced to move to Berlin, where it survived without any public funding for a brief time. On April 11 1933, the Berlin police, acting on the orders of the new Nazi government finally closed it.

The Nazi's "degenerate art" exhibition in 1937 featured works by several former Bauhaus teachers. The Nazis failed in their efforts to completely erase the Bauhaus. Its forced closure and the subsequent emigration of many of its former staff and students, ensured that it would become famous and influential throughout the world, especially in the United States, where a Bauhaus school was established in Chicago in 1937. The Bauhaus had a lasting impact on art education and in architecture.

The New Bauhaus, founded in 1937 in Chicago, was the immediate successor to the Bauhaus dissolved in 1933 under National Socialist pressure. Bauhaus ideology had a strong impact throughout America, but it was only at the New Bauhaus that the complete curriculum as developed under Walter Gropius in Weimar and Dessau was adopted and further developed. The former Bauhaus master Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was founding director of the New Bauhaus. The focus on natural and human sciences was increased, and photography grew to play a more prominent role at the school in Chicago than it had done in Germany. Training in mechanical techniques was more sophisticated than it had been in Germany. 

The method and aim of the school were likewise adapted to American requirements. Moholy-Nagy's successor at the head of the Institute of Design, Serge Chermayeff, however, remained still quite true to the original Bauhaus. In the 1950s the New Bauhaus merged with the Illinois Institute of Technology. The Institute of Design is even now still part of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and rates as a respected and professionally oriented school of design.



Posted by robin at March 15, 2006 02:35 PM


The following 1971 text by Charles Kuhn, curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum from 1930 to 1968, describes the formation of the Bauhaus collections at the Museum and is taken from the now out-of-print exhibition catalogue Concepts of the Bauhaus: The Busch-Reisinger Museum Collection (Cambridge, Mass., 1971). A more recent, fuller survey of the holdings may be found in Peter Nisbet and Emilie Norris, comps., The Busch-Reisinger Museum: History and Holdings (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), pp. 77-87.

At the close of the Second World War, systematic documentation of the history and aims of the Bauhaus appeared to be an important obligation of the Busch-Reisinger Museum. At that time, defeated Germany had neither the resources nor the will to undertake this task, although the value of such a collection to art historians, educators, industrial designers, architects and city planners was clear.

Even before the outbreak of war in 1939 many Bauhaus masters and students had emigrated to the United States. Walter Gropius, for instance, founder and first Director of the Bauhaus, had been at Harvard as a Professor of Architecture and chairman of the Department of Architecture since 1937. Joseph Albers began his long American teaching career at Black Mountain College in 1933. Lazlo Moholy-Nagy founded the "New Bauhaus" in Chicago in 1937 (eventually to be absorbed by the Illinois Institute of Technology). Mies van der Rohe at Chicago was primarily concerned with problems of professional training.

A precedent for the collection of Bauhaus work had already been set by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, although the selection of material was based primarily on artistic considerations rather than historic documentation. The presence of a university museum specializing in Germanic art and the contingent presence of Walter Gropius on the Harvard faculty made the Busch-Reisinger Museum the logical repository for such a research collection.


The idea of forming a Bauhaus collection was presented to Gropius, who received the suggestion with great enthusiasm. He immediately offered a long list of names and addresses of faculty and students formerly associated with the Bauhaus, and in the following years he gave much material as well as active support and advice to the museum. Letters to the individuals on the Gropius list began to be mailed in 1947 and the response was overwhelming. Many different ideas were expressed in the replies but there was general agreement on three points: that the project was necessary; that there was no such thing as a "Bauhaus method"; that Walter Gropius was unique in having the ability to establish a curriculum that insisted on craft discipline and yet allowed individual freedom for creation and experimentation.

From 1948 on, Bauhaus items of every description flowed into the Museum. There were class notes, student exercises, pamphlets, photographs (mostly documentary but many were examples of the art of photography), wall paper, furniture, metal and wood work, architectural designs, textiles and typography. For a brief period there were plans to devote a section of the collection to the influence of Bauhaus instruction concepts on American institution. It was soon realized that Bauhaus influence was so widespread that it would be out of the question to document it completely. Aspects of the famous introductory course were to be found in almost every American school of design or college art department.


So many individuals assisted in the development of the collection that it would be impossible to list all of their names. Special gratitude should be expressed to some of them for their extraordinary generosity, however. They are Anni and Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Hannes Beckmann, Howard Dearstyne, Julia and Lyonel Feininger, Ludwig Hilberseimer, L. Hirschfeld-Mack, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, and Gunta Stadler-Stölzl. In 1958 an important gift of paintings and drawings by Bauhaus Masters was presented to the Museum by Mrs. Lydia Dorner in memory of her husband, Alexander Dorner. Throughout the years of collecting, the interest of Walter Gropius remained high, and he continued to present gifts to the museum until a few months before his death.


In 1957, when gifts to the Research Collection had slowed considerably, Hans Maria Wingler came to Cambridge to study the Bauhaus collection at the museum aided by a Rockefeller Foundation grant to Harvard. He also spent time with former Bauhaus personnel throughout the United States. Largely through the efforts of Mr. Wingler, a Bauhaus Archive was established in Germany, and in 1960 he was appointed its first director. The formal opening of the Bauhaus Archiv, Darmstadt, took place on April 8, 1961, and the following year Wingler's monumental book, Das Bauhaus , was published. Thus through the Darmstadt archive and the Busch-Reisinger Research Collection the preservation of the historical documentation of the Bauhaus is assured for future generations of students and scholars.


No summary of the development of the Bauhaus collection at the Busch-Reisinger Museum can be complete without mention of the Lyonel Feininger Archive generously presented to the museum by Julia Feininger in 1963. This extraordinarily rich collection complements the museum's Bauhaus holdings, since Lyonel Feininger was the first master to be called by Gropius to the Bauhaus at Weimar in 1919 and retained his connection with that institution until it closed its doors in 1933.


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