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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Bauhaus, a basic description

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

School or style? The Bauhaus (1919–1933) is both. This school of applied arts, laboratory of modernism, was founded in Weimar, Germany. Its particularity is that it does not establish a hierarchy between the so-called "major" arts (architecture, painting, sculpture) and those called "minor" (design, fashion, graphics, etc.). In terms of style, he wants to be minimalist and functionalist. At the Bauhaus, art is total, and for everyone! Great artists such as Vassily Kandinsky or Paul Klee collaborated there. Its history was eventful, due to its successive moves then to its closure by the Nazis in 1933. But its spirit remains alive! The Bauhaus is considered a key moment in the history of the avant-garde.

History of movement

Walter Gropius, a German architect, and designer was the founder of the Bauhaus in 1919, an institute born on the foundations of an old school of applied arts opened in the city of Weimar from 1901 to 1914.

While defeated, Germany is painfully emerging from the Great War. For Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus, it is a question of innovating and making a clean sweep of the past. He expressed himself in favor of modernism, in particular by wishing to abolish the border between the so-called "noble" arts and the applied arts, notably industrial. Innovative, the spirit of the school is, however, inspired by the brotherhoods of artists from the Middle Ages. Everything must be brought together in the service of art.

Walter Gropius surrounds himself with teachers (qualified as masters) to carry out his project: Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, or even Paul Klee, Vassily Kandinsky, Theo van Doesburg, and Oskar Schlemmer. From the early 1920s, an inflection was made in favor of industry, architecture, and modern housing.

The school welcomes students without prerequisites. The program combines practical and theoretical courses and promotes multi disciplinarity. We teach the art of form, as well as the knowledge of materials and techniques through different workshops (textiles, glass, pottery, metal). Painters complete the lessons by working on color, line, plans. Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee are the two pillars of teaching fine arts within the school.

The Bauhaus irritates local conservative minds. Also, in 1925, the school had to change cities and moved to Dessau-Rosslau, an industrial city in need of housing. The perfect testing ground! To begin with, the Bauhaus inaugurates its buildings, a manifesto of its style: right angles, glass walls, play on volumes.

Walter Gropius retired in 1928 and gave way to Hannes Meyer at the head of the establishment. Democracy enters Education, and workshops produce for the masses. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe quickly followed him. But from the beginning of the 1930s, the local National Socialist Party opposed this teaching. The Bauhaus must once again move: it settles in Berlin.

The Berlin episode will be brief. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe succeeds in saving the school by transforming it into a private institute, but the Nazis accuse the Bauhaus of defending Bolshevik ideas. Considered a degenerate expression, it closed its doors in 1933. Most of the members went into exile in Chicago, where they participated in the construction of skyscrapers.


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