Bauhaus

Both pragmatic and idealistic, the school sought contracts with industry in order to become more self-supporting, but also to fulfil the basic principal that beautifully designed objects would bring about a better world.

— Karen Koehler

The Bauhaus (1919–33) is widely considered as the most important school of art and design of the 20th century. Founded by the German architect Walter Gropius in the provincial town of Weimar – also the centre of the new republican government – the Bauhaus quickly established its reputation as the leading and most progressive centre of the international avant-garde. Gropius sought to do away with traditional distinctions between the fine arts and craft, and to forge an entirely new kind of creative designer, skilled in both the conceptual aesthetics of art and the technical skills of handcrafts. Students were assigned to a workshop – in metals, ceramics, textiles, wood, printmaking or wall painting – where they progressed from apprentice, to journeyman, to master craftsman. Key examples of the Bauhaus and its approaches are presented here.

From the outset, the school was considered to be both politically and artistically radical. In 1925, authorities forced the school to close in Weimar because of its perceived cultural bolshevism. The Bauhaus relocated to the industrial city of Dessau and in 1928 the architect Hannes Meyer took over as director. Growing political pressure forced the Bauhaus to move again, this time to Berlin in 1932. The Nazis closed the Bauhaus permanently in 1933 after police raided what had essentially become a school of architecture under the direction of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Focus work

Marcel Breuer (1902-1981)
Club chair (B3) designed 1925

Year 7-12 Visual Arts: issues for consideration

  • Is there room for functionality in art? With reference to the Bauhaus school debate if design objects and fine art objects are only determined by their purpose.
  • Develop a case study on the Bauhaus school. Discover why they were considered politically and artistically radical and how its principles revolutionised our approach to design and art. In what way did they pose a threat to conventional thinking?
  • The Bauhaus school evolved in a time when Germany became a more urbanised, industrial society. Research this time in German history and compare the Bauhaus school to art styles occurring in Germany at this time. How do they represent the society as a whole?
  • Marcel Breuer developed the Club chair (B3), the first modern tubular steel furniture at the Bauhaus in 1925. This revolutionary design was functional, lightweight and could be easily mass-produced. It was later named the Wassily chair after his colleague Wassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus school. Discover other examples of the Bauhaus school from both Weimar and Dessau and make an informed opinion about the significance of Breuer’s design.