Can you imagine what a day of class at the Bauhaus would be like? With teachers such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef and Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Marcel Breuer, László Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Schlemmer, Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Mies van der Rohe (the last three as directors)? I imagine the scene with them centre-stage, encouraging their students to discover and explore their creative individuality; classes in which the ancient masters were analysed from a contemporary perspective, students learned innovative theories of form and colour, or experimented with new materials and textures. Everything was aimed at developing the students’ ability to create together, learning from each other in absolute freedom, unfettered by the restrictions of bygone ages. Everything was geared to develop critical thinking, giving rise to a revolution in art and design. For me, attending class there would be like reaching Nirvana.
Bauhaus: laboratory of modernity
The architect Walter Gropius, founder of the first Bauhaus school in Weimar (1919), brought together a cast of avant-garde artists around the idea that art should have a place in everyday life. At the same time, he drove forward training for a new breed of artists who could turn their hands to anything.
There are moments in history in which a convergence of determined characters, transformative ideas, cultural curiosity and technological innovations underpinned by the urge to seek out bright new horizons, generates a whole movement. And through the search for progress, that movement inspires the world into action. The Bauhaus school “moment in history” is one such example, despite the traumatic economic instability of the post-war period and the unshakeable reticence of conservative tradition.
Art tailored to society’s needs
The Bauhaus school, heir and renovator of the Arts and Crafts movement, non-conformist and at the same time inspired by the aesthetics of machinery, was born of a vocation to blend art with the industrial manufacture, handcrafted production and mass consumption of practical objects at accessible prices, offering society a new spirit for the future which was visionary, liberating, reinvigorating, optimistic and cosmopolitan.
Art tailored to society’s needs, Bauhaus derives its name from the German words “Bau” (building) and “Haus” (house). Its influence, which reaches into the present day, has made this name synonymous with the evolution and modernisation of the art world.
One of the achievements of the Bauhaus was in managing to create a culture of the people and for the people, where arts and crafts come together in the hope of achieving a fairer society. Aesthetics and utility, beauty and necessity; the Bauhaus school fuses them by creating products that are both functional and beautiful, bringing art to individuals, homes and institutions. Each design starts out from a simple geometric figure such as the circle, square or triangle, and these are attributed a certain characteristic. The circle is “fluid and centric,” for example, the square is “serene” and the triangle, “diagonal.” An ode to everyday life, where art is in our surroundings, sometimes in the simplest things, underlined by Mies van der Rohe’s famous phrase: “Less is more.”
100 years of Bauhaus
Bauhaus (1919-1933), the school of art and design, celebrates its centenary this year. Bauhaus was the epitome of the avant-garde in Germany. Bauhaus was the realisation of an experimental approach to learning whose results were not only beautiful but pragmatic, useful and society-oriented. Bauhaus, a cultural phenomenon anchored in time and place, whose influence across the globe is practically unrivalled.
In 1933, with the rise of the Nazis in Germany, the school was forced to close, victim of authoritarian politics, national socialist doctrine and racial and ideological discrimination. By this time, however, the Bauhaus had already left its mark, with tangible results of its reinvigorating vision spread across the globe. What’s more, the school’s teachers went into exile, taking the Bauhaus philosophy with them all over the world. If we look around us for “signs of the Bauhaus,” we might find them in our homes. How much has the Bauhaus impacted on your home? Perhaps even your drinking glasses have the mark of the Bauhaus: useful, practical and beautiful.
Photography: Oscar Rivilla
Translation: Rebekah Jane Rhodes
Music: Dr Symptosizer
Art Director: Carolina Verd
Main picture: blue dress with pink sleeves and red high heels by Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada
Picture 2: yellow skirt and blue high heels by Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada
Picture 3: black dress by Ulises Mérida, red shoes by Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada
Picture 4: red dress by Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada