Throughout the 20th century, several styles of avant-garde art helped shape modern art. While many of these genres—including subconscious-based surrealism and energetic abstract expressionism—predominantly favored paintings, the Bauhaus movement encompassed a wide array of mediums, materials, and disciplines.
Ranging from paintings and graphics to architecture and interiors, Bauhaus art dominated many outlets of experimental European art throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Though it is most closely associated with Germany, it attracted and inspired artists of all backgrounds. Today, its influence can be found in art and design all over the world, whether within the walls of a museum or on a suburban street.
What is Bauhaus?
Bauhaus—literally translated to “construction house”—originated as a German school of the arts in the early 20th century. Founded by Walter Gropius, the school eventually morphed into its own modern art movement characterized by its unique approach to architecture and design. Today, Bauhaus is renowned for both its unique aesthetic that inventively combines the fine arts with arts and crafts as well as its enduring influence on modern and contemporary art.
In 1919, German architect Walter Gropius established Staatliches Bauhaus, a school dedicated to uniting all branches of the arts under one roof. The school acted as a hub for Europe’s most experimental creatives, with well-known artists like Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee offering their expertise as instructors.
Bauhaus as an educational institution existed in three cities—Weimar (1919 to 1925), Dessau (1925 to 1932), and Berlin (1932 to 1933).
Weimar, aka State Bauhaus in Weimar, was where Gropius laid the groundwork for Bauhaus to come; it’s where he established ideals that would be considered visionary for the time. Art, according to his manifesto and the program, should serve a social role and there should no longer be a division of craft-based disciplines.
At Weimar, the “stage workshop” was an important part of the education. From 1921 to 1923, it was directed by Lothar Schreyer and by Oskar Schlemmer from 1923 to 1925. It brought together visual and performing arts and stressed an interdisciplinary approach.
Dessau was considered the heyday of Bauhaus. It arose after the politically motivated close of Weimar, and during this time, it set forth on the path of designing new industrial products for mass consumption. (Most of the products and designs that are well known today came from Dessau.) It was also here that the famous Bauhaus Building was planned and built by Gropius. This iteration of Bahaus was dissolved on September 30, 1932.
Berlin was the last phase of Bauhaus. Due to mounting pressures from the Nazis and cutbacks in funding, there was limited work done during this time. The move to Berlin happened after the closure of Dessau, and Bauhaus masters and students reconvened in October 1932 out of an abandoned telephone factory. By April 11, 1933, however, the premises were searched and closed by the police and SA.
The teaching staff dissolved the Bauhaus in July 1933. But even after facing permanent closure, the influence and aesthetic of the school persisted, culminating in the Bauhaus movement.