Friday, 8 June 2012

Art as Life

The founder and first director of the Bauhaus was serving in the German army during the First World War when Walter Gropius witnessed the mechanised slaughter that made him dream that machines could instead be used to benefit mankind, and the seeds of the famous art and design school were sown.

The life of the Bauhaus in Germany mirrored that of the Weimar Republic, both in terms of it beginning in 1919 in Weimar and ending in 1933, by which point the Nazi party had completely taken control of political power in the country. In April 1933 their storm troopers raided the third home of the Bauhaus in Berlin, when they arrested students and smashed workshops, causing the closure of the school and then the emigration of these artists and designers from Europe gathered pace.

The influence that the school has had on art, design, architecture and education cannot be overstated. The work of its students, teachers and masters, both during their time at the Bauhaus and in their subsequent careers internationally, has left a lasting legacy that can still be seen today.

The current exhibition at the Barbican, Bauhaus: Art as Life, not only explores their work, but also focuses on the students' activities outside of the classroom. They arguably invented the art student stereotype, decades before the 1950's and 60's, as the people of Weimar complained at the time about their unusual clothes, outlandish hairstyles and late night parties with loud unfamiliar music.

These are some of my highlights of the Barbican show...

The Small Worlds (1922) portfolio of 12 prints by artist and Bauhaus teacher Wassily Kandinsky, 3 of which are pictured below:

Small Worlds 2 (1922), Wassily Kandinsky

Small Worlds 4 (1922), Wassily Kandinsky

Small Worlds 7 (1922), Wassily Kandinsky

An example of artist and Bauhaus teacher Paul Klee's frequently impeccable use of colour and line:

Comedy (1921), Paul Klee

Pictured below is the Club Chair (1925-26) designed by Marcel Breuer. Adler bicycle handlebars had purportedly inspired the Bauhaus designer and architects influential tubular steel furniture designs, such as this one. The huge influence of this furniture can be seen in its continued use today.

Club Chair (1925-26), Marcel Breuer

A more immediate influence may have then been made on the architect and final director of the Bauhaus, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed this table below that essentially is made of just four parts including tubular steel.

Table MR 130 (1927), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

According to the Barbicans wall text, the mood in the painting by Kandinsky below reflected the imminent closure of the Bauhaus:

Development in Brown (1933), Wassily Kandinsky

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