Bauhaus

Bauhaus (bouˈhous) [key], artists' collective and school of art and architecture in Germany (1919–33). The Bauhaus revolutionized art training by combining the teaching of classic arts with the study of crafts. In practice, a team of architects, artists, and master craftsmen conducted hands-on workshops in such areas as industrial design, sculpture, architecture, cabinetmaking, metalwork, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, and weaving. Students were also trained in the basics of color, form, and material. Philosophically, the school was built on the idea that design did not merely reflect society, but could actually help to improve it.

Founded at Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus was headed by Walter Gropius who conceived of it as a way to combine beauty and simplicity, utility and mass production. The faculty included Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer, and Josef and Anni Albers. The Bauhaus teaching plan insisted on functional craftsmanship in every field, with a concentration on the industrial problems of mechanical mass production. The school sometimes sold a line of products, which was mainly produced by the unpaid labor of the student body (about 150 individuals). Bauhaus style was characterized by economy of method, a severe geometry of form, and design that took into account the nature of the materials employed. The school's concepts aroused vigorous opposition from right-wing politicians and academicians.

In 1925 the Bauhaus moved to the more friendly atmosphere of Dessau, where Gropius designed special buildings to house the various departments. This was also the year that one of the Bauhaus's most successful products, Breuer's tubular steel and leather chair, was created. Gropius resigned in 1928, and leadership passed to the architect Hannes Meyer. He in turn was replaced in 1930 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who in an effort to save the Bauhaus made a number of conservative changes. Nonetheless, in the summer of 1932 opposition to the school had increased to such an extent that the city of Dessau withdrew its support. The school was then moved to Berlin, where the faculty endeavored to carry on their ideas, but in 1933 the Nazi government closed the school entirely.

The Bauhaus ideas, enveloping design in architecture, furniture, weaving, and typography, among others, had by this time found wide acclaim in many parts of the world and especially in the United States. Gropius himself went to the United States and taught at Harvard, where he exercised considerable influence. Josef and Anni Albers also emigrated to the United States, where they brought the Bauhaus philosophy to Yale. The Chicago Institute of Design, founded by Moholy-Nagy, most completely carried on the teaching plan of the Bauhaus. In New York City, the Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1929, was organized according to Bauhaus departmental structure, similarly included a wide variety of media, and followed Bauhaus principles in its approach to design.

See W. Gropius, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (rev. ed. 1955); H. M. Wingler, The Bauhaus, ed. by J. Stein (1969); M. Franciscono, Walter Gropius and the Creation of the Bauhaus (1971); E. S. Hochman, Bauhaus: Crucible of Modernism (1997); B. Bergdoll et al., Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity (MOMA museum catalog, 2009); N. Fox Weber, The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism (2009); U. Müller, Bauhaus Women: Art, Handicraft, Design (2009); P. Oswalt, ed., Bauhaus Conflicts, 1919–2009 (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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