Bauhaus movement


Bauhaus movement

The Staatliche Bauhaus (‘House of State Construction’), or simply Bauhaus, was the school of architecture, design, crafts and art founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius in Weimar (Germany) and closed by the Prussian authorities in the hands of the Nazi Party .

First name

The name Bauhaus derives from the union of the German words Bau, “construction”, and Haus, “house”; Ironically, despite its name and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not have an architecture department in the early years of its existence.

His proposals and declarations of intentions involved the idea of ​​a necessary reform of artistic teachings as a basis for a consequent transformation of the bourgeois society of the time, in accordance with the socialist thinking of its founder. The first phase (1919-1923) was idealistic and romantic, the second (1923-1925) much more rationalist and in the third (1925-1929) it reached its highest recognition, coinciding with its transfer from Weimar to Dessau. In 1930, under the direction of Mies van der Rohe, he moved to Berlin where he completely changed the orientation of his teaching program.

Foundation ideology

BauhausWalter Adolph Georg Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, was born in Berlin on May 18, 1883. He was the son and grandson of architects, studied architecture in Munich and Berlin. One of Gropius’ main ideals was represented by the following phrase: “Form follows function”. I was looking for the union between use and aesthetics.

His career is a circumstance that must be considered a determining factor for the ideological orientation of Gropius. Coming from the intelligent bourgeoisie, he worked in Munich from 1907 to 1910 with Peter Behrens, the first architect hired by a large industrial company as artistic director (AEG). From then on, Gropius always raised the problem of building in relation to the industrial system and mass production, even going so far as to consider the building as a direct product of the industry and founding it in 1943, together with Konrad Wachsmann, a prefabricated building company.

The Fagus factory, of revolutionary architecture, gave it some fame in 1911 – which it confirmed in Cologne in 1914 – when building for the exhibition of the Werkbund a palace for offices of daring structural, aesthetic and technical conception. The Great War interrupted its activity of constructor, claimed to the front. But during those years the conscience was maturing in his mind that he had a very high human duty to fulfill: architecture had to play a role in the social problem that the postwar period would pose with all seriousness; and this social problem had to merge with aesthetics.

Relationship with the design

The Bauhaus laid the normative bases and patterns of what we know today as industrial and graphic design; it can be said that before the existence of the Bauhaus these two professions did not exist as such and were conceived within this school. Without a doubt, the school established the academic foundations on which one of the most predominant trends of the new Modern Architecture would be based to a great extent, incorporating a new aesthetic that would cover all areas of everyday life: from the chair in which you feel up to the page you are reading (Heinrich von Eckardt). Given its importance, the works of the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

Being director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the school suffered from the increasing harassment on the part of Nazism. Because the Bauhaus ideology was seen as socialist, internationalist and Jewish the Nazis closed the school.

Many of the members of the same one, among them the same Walter Gropius, refugees, settled finally in the United States to continue with their ideals.

The Bauhaus had its headquarters in three cities:

1919-1925: Weimar
1925-1932: Dessau
1932-1933: Berlin
And it was organized by three directors:

1919-1928: Walter Gropius
1928-1930: Hannes Meyer
1930-1933: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

The Bauhaus and the new typography

According to Philip B. Meggs, the Bauhaus generated a new typographic style at its design school (1919-1933). The sources of sans-serif were used almost exclusively and Bayer designed a universal type that reduced the alphabet to clean, simple and rationally constructed forms.

Bauhaus in Dresden


One of the principles established by the Bauhaus since its founding is “The way follows the function”

The building of the Bauhaus of Dessau (1925-1932) by Walter Gropius, is the most emblematic of its schools. It unfolds in several volumes, independent of each other, and designed according to the function for which they were conceived. It has a configuration related to the conditions of the area where it is located: it borders a street, crosses another perpendicular to the first and two of its wings outline a nearby sports field, and opens to the rhythm of urban life with its large facades of bright windows. This project is considered as the masterpiece of European rationalism.

Tel Aviv is the city with the most Bauhaus architecture. There are more buildings built in the Bauhaus style than anywhere else in the world, including any city in Germany. The style was taken in the 30s by European architects, mostly Germans and Russians, from the Bauhaus school who fled the Nazi regime. Since 2003, “The White City” is considered a World Heritage Site, and there are more than 4000 Bauhaus style buildings and international style accounted for and subject to different restoration and preservation plans.


The Bauhaus did not have a photographic section, but in 1923 the metal workshop was entrusted to the Hungarian master László Moholy-Nagy, who then introduced photography as a new medium of artistic expression. He taught techniques such as photomontage, light editing, photo sculpture and collage opening tracks in this field. It encouraged, within the framework of photographic expression, the exploration of new forms rather than new themes. One of the essential innovations of this school was undoubtedly that of having systematically associated art with its possible applications, be they documentary, decorative or advertising. Great photographers studied at the Bauhaus as Herbert Bayer, Lucia Moholy-Nagy, Walter Peterhans, Horacio Coppola, Florence Henry, Grete Stern and Ellen Auerbach, among others.

Historical-political context

The founding of the Bauhaus came at a time of crisis of modern thought and Western technical rationality in the whole of Europe and particularly in Germany. Its creation was due to the confluence of a set of political, social, educational and artistic development in the first two decades of the 20th century, whose specificity is given by the artistic avant-gardes of the beginning of the century.

The conservative modernization of the German Empire during the 1870s kept power in the hands of the aristocracy. This also required militarism and imperialism to maintain stability. By 1912 the rise of the leftists of the SPD had galvanized political positions with concepts of international solidarity and of establishing socialism against imperialist nationalism. Sectors of the proletariat demonstrated an increasing capacity for organization, an issue that was forced by German hyperinflation and the increasingly evident economic crisis. Like other movements belonging to the artistic avant-garde, the Bauhaus was not marginalized from political-social processes, maintaining a high degree of critical content and commitment from the left. The Bauhaus – as evidenced by the problems she had with politicians who did not see her with sympathy – acquired a reputation as deeply subversive.


First period (1919-1923)

At the time of its foundation, the objectives of the school, characterized by Gropius in a manifesto, were: “The recovery of artisanal methods in the constructive activity, to raise craftsmanship to the same level as the Fine Arts and to try to market the products that , integrated into industrial production, they would become affordable consumer objects for the general public “since one of their goals was to become independent and start selling the products made at the School, to stop depending on the State that until then He was the one who subsidized them.

It was formed when Gropius joined the School of Fine Arts with the School of Applied Arts or School of Arts and Crafts, transforming it into the first design school in the world.

In this phase the so-called “vorkurs” or preliminary course, created by Johannes Itten, was implanted in the school. As its name indicates, the preliminary course, prior to the studies proper, had the mission of freeing conventions from the future member of the institution, awakening their personal gifts and orienting them spiritually for further training. Among the first students were Marcel Lajos Breuer and Joost Schmidt, who achieved some success. The students were flexible and willing to do all kinds of jobs, so they left the school well trained, knowing how to draw, model, photograph or design furniture. The school had workshops in cabinetmaking, design, theater, ceramics, weaving, bookbinding, metallurgy, glassmaking. But not painting and sculpture in the traditional sense.

The theater workshop, directed by Oskar Schlemmer, was considered very important within the school’s program because of its nature as a social activity that combined diverse means of expression. Decorations, costumes, etc. they were part of the students’ practices. The works of Schlemmer were famous, especially the Triadic Ballet, a work premiered at the Stuttgart theater.

Paul Klee came to school in 1920. Very cultured person (besides being a remarkable violinist and painter) very interested in the theoretical problems of art. He developed his activity in the weaving workshop, giving composition classes. His teaching was based on the elementary forms, from which, according to him, all the others were derived. Art had to discover these forms, reveal them, make them visible. He prepared the classes conscientiously by writing in notebooks that were subsequently published in the form of a book.

In 1922 Kandinsky joined the project. He had participated in educational reforms at the time of the Russian Revolution, founding several schools in the Soviet Union. During that time he corresponded with Gropius. When the Russian revolution began to suffer difficulties and disputes and political purges began, Kandinsky decided to move to the Bauhaus. Its prestige, after the publication of Of the spiritual thing in the art in 1911 and its first abstract works of 1910, was by then already very great. He replaced Schlemmer in the mural painting workshop and taught with Klee in the basic design course. His theoretical mind was decisive to start the path towards a more intellectual and reasoned art, where they used the soul of the object to sculpt it in the fabric with abstract features.

Klee retired in 1931.

This first stage culminates with the imminent need for the change of the school headquarters propitiated by the Great Depression. The first stage of the Bauhaus can be synthesized as a phase of experimentation of forms, products and designs and, therefore, also of educators of design.

Second period (1923-1925)

In 1923 Theo van Doesburg, founder in the Netherlands of neoplasticism, painter, architect and theoretician, created in Holland the magazine and the movement De Stijl and when arriving later at Weimar, he exerted a decisive influence on the students and on Gropius, which would end leading the school to take another course.

As of 1923, the former expressionist tendency was replaced by the New Objectivity, a style that was also expressionist, although much more sober, that was being imposed throughout Germany. The incorporation into the Bauhaus of László Moholy-Nagy, an artist very close to Van Doesburg, involved the introduction into the school of the ideas of Russian constructivism of El Lissitzky and Tatlin, who advocated a communal art, based on the idea and not in inspiration.

From this period date some of the most important theoretical writings of the Bauhaus in the field of painting. Thus, Klee writes “Paths of the study of nature” (Wege des Naturstudiums, 1923) and “Notebook of pedagogical sketches” (Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch, 1925); and teaches at the Art Association of Jena the conference Modern Art (Über die moderne Kunst). For his part, Kandinsky publishes “Point and line on the plane” (Punkt und Linie zu Fläche, 1926) as number 9 of the Bauhaus series, and in 1925 the Dessau headquarters was opened.

Third period (1925-1933)

In 1928, László Moholy-Nagy, after five years as a teacher, left the Bauhaus, a decision taken in the face of growing pressure from the group of teachers and students of communist tendencies.

In 1933 the Nazi party decided to close the school so Ludwig Mies van der Rohe moved the Bauhaus to Berlin with funds gained from the illegality of closing contracts. The school, located this time in an old telephone building, would survive only until April of the same year. The protests of Van der Rohe, who insisted on presenting himself as a patriot and war veteran and argued that his work had no political implications, were useless.

Everyday life and the Bauhaus parties

The Bauhaus was also a great life experiment of a small community of young people (about 1400) who, after the bankruptcy of the old order and the traumatic experience of the recently completed World War I, launched with enthusiasm the construction of a social utopia , of new forms of coexistence. Legendary parties were held at the Bauhaus, usually themed (white party, metal festival, kite festival) and almost always costumes, in whose organization and design they worked for weeks. The parties had a double intention: on the one hand to foster contact between the school and the population to appease the misgivings generated by the institution in the population and, on the other, promote teamwork and cooperation and serve as catharsis in the face of tensions and conflicts that originated in the Bauhaus as a result of the close link between work and private life. In addition to these “official” holidays, any event was equally likely to lead to a celebration: the completion of a tapestry, the acquisition of the nationality of the Kandinsky couple, or the birth of a child.

The New Bauhaus

After 1933 a large part of the members of the Bauhaus marched to the United States where a kind of continuation of the Bauhaus until the Cold War developed. László Moholy-Nagy founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937. Of the new incarnations of the school, this would be the one that would most faithfully respect the original curriculum. In 1951 the Swiss architect and sculptor Max Bill, following the guidelines of the original Bauhaus, founded the Hochschule für Gestaltung (Higher School of Design) in Ulm (Federal Republic of Germany), which soon recovers the Bauhaus designation or, to differentiate it from the initial, Neues Bauhaus (New Bauhaus), of which the Argentine painter and designer Tomás Maldonado was director between 1954-1966, who emphasized even more with the scientific and rationalist character applied in the arts.

Main exponents of the Bauhaus

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), painter.
Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), painter and photographer of communist arts.
Paul Klee (1879-1940), painter.
Walter Gropius (1883-1969), architect.
Lilly Reich (1885-1947), architect and interior designer.
Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe (1886-1969), architect.
Ludwig Hilberseimer (1885-1967), architect and urban planner.
Lothar Shreyer (1886-1966), writer, playwright and painter.
Josef Albers (1888-1976), painter and art teacher.
Johannes Itten (1888-1967), painter and art teacher.
Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943), painter.
Gerhard Marcks (1889-1940), painter and sculptor.
Hannes Meyer (1889-1954), architect.
Marianne Brandt (1893-1983), designer in metal.
Joost Schmidt (1893-1948), typographer and sculptor.
Lászlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), visual designer.
Georg Muche (1895-1987), painter and graphic artist.
Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983), weaver.
Walter Peterhans (1897-1960), photographer.
Hinnerk Scheper (1897-1957), colourist, painter and monument curator.
Alfred Arndt (1898-1976), architect.
Anni Albers (1899-1994), textile designer and engraver.
Herbert Bayer (1900-1985), graphic designer and painter.
Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), architect.
Lotte Beese, (1903-1988), architect and urban planner
Xanti Schawinsky (1904-1979), Painter, draftsman, designer and photographer.
Grete Stern (1904-1999), designer and photographer.
Horacio Cóppola (1906-2012), photographer.

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