Bauhaus movement is 100

Walter Gropius photographed by Louis Held in 1919
Walter Gropius photographed by Louis Held in 1919

“We want an architecture adapted to our world of machines, radios and fast cars”.

Walter Gropius on the reasons for founding the Bauhaus University.

Walter Gropius office at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.
Walter Gropius office at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.
Interior of the office as it was when Walter Gropius occupied it (the furniture, fixtures and carpet are items that has been reconstructed) furniture and light fixtures designed by him and other Bauhaus students and teachers.
The light fixture in Walter Gropius' office.
The light fixture in Walter Gropius’ office.

In Germany after the ending of the first world war the time was ripe for the “German revolution” – this was the time when the Weimar Republic was founded. Weimar was the center of the German Enlightenment, and on April 12 1919 the Bauhaus University (Bauhaus Weimar link) was founded by Walter Gropius. The University was founded by merging two art schools established by the Grand Duke William Ernest of Sachsen Weimar Eisenach; The Weimar Sachsen Grand Ducal Art School and the Weimar Academy of Fine Art. 

haus University Weimar main building.
Bauhaus University Weimar main building.
Oskar Schlemmer created this colorful mural in the staircase at the Bauhaus University main building.
Oskar Schlemmer created this mural in the staircase at the Bauhaus University main building.
The Schlemmer mural seen from the staircase going up.
The Schlemmer mural seen from the staircase going up.
Looking down from the top of the stairs in the main building – beautiful art noveau lines…
Art at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.
Art at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.

The underlying thought of the Bauhaus University was the melding of Arts and Architecture with the intent to teach the students to design and build beautiful functional homes. The Grand Duke was a big supporter of various arts so the school was well received and the location in Weimar was perfect at the time it was established. Weimar was home to many German artists, in large part due to the Grand Duke’s and his ruling predecessor’s  interest in and support of the arts. Among the artists that at one time called Weimar home was, the two biggest German poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) and Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805).

Goethe and Schiller in front of the Opera House in Weimar.

Weimar was  also a center for music; Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a Court musician and among other things played the organ in the church at the City Castle. Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) made his home in Weimar while employed by the Court as Kapellmeister Extraordinaire 1842 – 1861. 

A bust of a young Franz Liszt at the house where he lived 1869 until his death in 1886. It was made into a museum by the Grand Duke Carl Alexander in 1887.
The music salon in the Liszt house contains the original items that would have been there when Liszt lived and worked there. He composed and gave music lessons in this room and on the pianos thet are still there.

Of note is that Weimar is home to the biggest Shakespeare society outside of England and the Bard is honored with a statue in the “Park and der Ilm” (Ilm is the river that runs through the city and the park).

A statue of Shakespeare in Park an der Ilm.
A statue of Shakespeare in Park an der Ilm.

In the park is a house that Goethe lived in, you can go into an exact replica of that house, it was built to prevent the original house, which is hidden by hedges and other greenery just nearby, from being damaged by the large number of visitors that come every year.

Goethe’s house in the park. (This is the replica – the original is hidden to the right behind the trees.)

The visual arts was also represented by some of Germany’s most treasured painters. The German Expressionism movement that had started before WWI along with Dadaism was still a big influence on the painters, but now another movement, the New Objectivity started influencing the art. This new movement was different in the sense that there was no formal group of artists that everyone belonged to, instead they were joined by the the common threads of their art such as the horrors of war, poverty, social hypocrisy and the rise of Nazism. Two of the more well known names of the movement was Otto Dix and Max Beckmann.

Paul Klee was another painter in Weimar at the time. He was a faculty member of the Bauhaus University and his lectures on modern art are considered as having had great influence on the arts in this new era of art in Germany.

Paul Klee (1879-1940) – “Wasserpark im Herbst” 1926 oil on paper/cardboard. (Waterpark in the Fall). On display in the old Bauhaus museum in Weimar owned by “Klassik Stiftung Weimar”. The new museum is now open and here is a link to the website.

The Bauhaus University in Weimar lasted only from 1919 until 1925 when the school moved to Dessau 1925 – 1932 (Bauhaus Dessau link), and  finally to Berlin 1932 – 1933. The school was closed under pressure from the Nazi regime in 1933. The change of venue and in leadership also meant a constant change in focus and to some extent maybe even a renewal of the underlying philosophies of the  school and the Bauhaus movement.

Model of the Bauhaus University buildings in Dessau.
Bauhaus University Dessau Student housing.
Detail of Bauhaus door hardware.
Interior of the Bauhaus University Dessau with Marcel Breuer designed chairs “Wassily” in front of the window.
Ventilation window system at the Bauhaus University Dessau.

The leaders of the Bauhaus University were Walter Gropius 1919 – 1928, Hannes Meier 1928 – 1930 and Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe 1930 – 1933. The Bauhaus ideologies and ideas spread with the teachers and students as they dispersed all around the world after the closure of the Bauhaus University. The closure was very much due to the Nazis coming into power and they deemed the ideals and ideas of the Bauhaus as being degenerative and accused the school of being a forum for foreign and Jewish influences on the German society.

“The Meisterhauses” (The Masters’ houses) in Dessau were houses commissioned by the city of Dessau from Walter Gropius in 1923. They were built in 1925 at the same time as the Bauhaus University was being built. The homes all had studios in them so this was an early live/work idea that Walter Gropius had. hen also had the idea of using prefabricated panels in the construction of the home. This was however never fully realized and the homes were built using mainly proven construction methods. Gropius lived in one home and László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger shared a duplex. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, Georg Muche and Oskar Schlemmer with their families also lived here later. Some of the homes were destroyed during WWII and others were changed in so many ways that they were far removed from what they originally looked like. Today the homes have been restored and rebuilt according to the original plans. Read more about the “Meisterhauses” here!

One of the "Meisterhauses" in Dessau, this one designed by László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger.
One of the “Meisterhauses” in Dessau was a duplex and it was the home of László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger. This house now houses the Kurt Weil center, the composer who was born in Dessau and who composed music for many of Bertolt Brecht’s plays.
Meisterhauses in Dessau.
Meisterhauses in Dessau.