With Thanksgiving being so late this year, I can’t believe that it’s December and the last ArtSmart Roundtable of 2013. We’ve been going strong for nearly 2 1/2 years, and I’m excited that our group is growing and touching upon topics that really pique readers’ interests.
This month, Alexandra of ArtTrav is joining us. Find her link, and this month’s participants, at the bottom of the post. December’s theme is Artistic Movements or Periods. Even though I focus heavily on medieval art and architecture (that was my focus in school), I did also concentrate on architectural history. Despite my love of over-the-top, crazily ornamented medieval structures, I also love modernist art and architecture which was part of the inspiration for the look of this blog. So this month, I’m highlighting the Bauhaus School.
The Bauhaus School operated in Germany from 1919 to 1933. In the early 20th century, there was a shift among many architects and artists away from fanciful forms towards a rational, simplified look. William Morris, a 19th century English designer, advocated the marriage of form and function. Political shifts in Europe towards the working class, rather than the aristocracy or educated elite, who lived simply also fed into this slowly developing mindset of modernism. This school of thought also manifested itself in the American Arts and Crafts movement as well as other forms of modernism throughout Europe.
The School had three locations and three architect directors over its lifetime. Walter Gropius ran it in Weimar and then Dessau from 1919-28, Hannes Meyer ran it in Dessau from 1928-30, and Ludwig Mies van de Rohe ran it in Dessau and then Berlin from 1930-33. I personally have experienced Gropius’s and van de Rohe’s work so I’ll focus on some of their works as well as pieces by lecturers at Bauhaus.
Walter Gropius designed the door handles that you see EVERYWHERE. Rather than a fancy circular knob or the ornate claw-shaped handles seen on so many buildings, he created the sleek, streamlined metal cylinder that is just beautifully simple.
If you’re ever in Boston, make the drive out to Lincoln to see Gropius’s home. He relocated to England after his stint at the Bauhaus and then was hired by Harvard (thus escaping persecution by the Nazis). I’ve visited his home, and it is absolutely gorgeous in its minimalism. Each and every element has a reason for being there and is designed with purpose. You can also see his works in Germany, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, England, and Greece.
Need a break from the craziness of Gaudi in Barcelona? You can find Bauhaus modernism thanks to Ludwig Mies van de Rohe. A reconstruction of his German Pavilion for the Barcelona Exhibition is a temple to modernism. He also designed several homes in Germany before emigrating to the US after his tenure as the last director of the Bauhaus. In the US, you can find his designs in Chicago, the Seagram Building in NYC, several pavilions of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Baltimore, Montreal, Toronto, and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
He also designed the iconic Barcelona chair. I had the pleasure of condo-sitting for an architectural history professor who owns two of these so I sat on them every chance I had. He mixed luxurious leather with industrial chrome and keeps the support separate from the seat itself. Can you imagine how futuristic this looked in 1929 when the chair was first designed? Could you see these in Downton Abbey instead of the ornate heirlooms?
The last Bauhaus-affiliated person I’ll mention is Josef Albers. He was a lecturer and later professor at Dessau’s Bauhaus. He had a painting background but taught stained glass and crafts. After the Bauhaus closed, he moved to the US and directed the famous Black Mountain Art College in North Carolina and later lectured at the graphic design program at Yale. His art focused on geometric composition. He created a series called Homage to the Square with hundreds of pieces featuring concentric squares highlighting his color theories (that color is ruled by an internal logic). He also created murals for several office and college buildings, typefaces, and prints.
I hope you learned a little about the Bauhaus School. There’s so much more the see and talk about, so read up and see if there are any pieces or buildings near you.
What is ArtSmart? A couple fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling. At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers. Interested in joining the Roundtable? Check out our Facebook page or email me.
This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:
Christina of Daydream Tourist: Spanish Baroque
Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: My Futurist Milan
Jenna of This Is My Happiness: Arts & Crafts Movement in the U.S.
Murissa of The Wanderfull Traveler: 7 Winter Scenes Across Canada by the Group of Seven
*New!* Alexandra of ArtTrav: A brief history of art for visitors to Tuscany