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Spotlight Artist: Modernism: Bauhaus - Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Herbert Bayer

The Bauhaus, founded in 1919 by German architect Walter Gropius, aimed to unite diverse arts and crafts into a cohesive creative expression, envisioning a radical transformation of the material world. The Proclamation of the Bauhaus in 1919 outlined this vision, emphasizing the fusion of architecture, sculpture, and painting into a unified artistic endeavor. The school's initial curriculum immersed students in materials, color theory, and formal relationships before they entered specialized workshops.

Noteworthy workshops included cabinetmaking, where Marcel Breuer redefined furniture forms, and the textile workshop under Gunta Stölzl, which produced abstract textiles using unconventional materials. Metalworking, led by designers like Marianne Brandt, created modern, mass-producible items. Typography gained importance under figures like László Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer, conceptualizing it as both a means of communication and artistic expression. The workshop's use of sans serif typefaces and photography in promotional materials symbolized the avant-garde nature of the Bauhaus.

Over time, the school shifted its focus to mass production and industrial design. In 1925, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, where a modernist building designed by Gropius became an architectural hallmark. Despite financial challenges, the school emphasized designing for mass production, adopting the slogan "Art into Industry."

The Bauhaus underwent directorial changes, with Gropius succeeded by Hannes Meyer and later Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Meyer emphasized social function and architecture, while Mies relocated the school to Berlin in 1930, facing political pressures. The Bauhaus ultimately closed in 1933 due to financial difficulties and political instability.

During World War II, key Bauhaus figures emigrated to the United States, influencing architecture and design education. Breuer and Gropius taught at Harvard, Josef and Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, and Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Mies van der Rohe designed and taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The Bauhaus's historical significance lies in its transformative approach to art education, advocating the integration of art and functionality, mass production, and innovative design. Despite its closure, the Bauhaus legacy endured through the emigration of its influential figures, shaping the trajectory of modern design and architecture internationally.

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Essential Questions

  • What is the difference between Modernism and the Bauhaus?

  • What are characteristics of Modernism?

  • How is it different from what came right before it?

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