Monday, December 2, 2013

ArtSmart Roundtable: The Bauhaus School

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 door handle

Walter Gropius, c. 1922, nickel-plated brass, 2 3/8 x 7 3/4 x 6″ (6 x 19.7 x 15.2 cm) mounted on wood base 10 x 4 3/4 x 3 3/8″ (25.4 x 12.1 x 8.6 cm). Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder. Via MoMA.

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.

Gropius House, Lincoln, MA.

The entryway to the Gropius House, Lincoln, MA.

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.

Barcelona Pavilion, Bauhaus, Mies van de Rohe

German Pavillion in Barcelona, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. 1929 (reconstruction 1986) via Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Barcelona Chair at the Barcelona Pavilion via Wikimedia Commons.

Barcelona Chair at the Barcelona Pavilion via Wikimedia Commons.

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?

Josef Albers Homage to the Square

Museum Quadrat Bottrop, Josef Albers Homage to the Square paintings via Wikimedia Commons.

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

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14 Responses to “ArtSmart Roundtable: The Bauhaus School”

  1. 1

    A brief history of art for visitors to Tuscany | Arttrav.com — December 2, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    […] Erin from A Sense of Place – The Bauhaus School […]

  2. 2

    ArtSmart Roundtable: My Futurist Milan » No Onions Extra Pickles — December 2, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

    […] Erin of A Sense of Place: The Bauhaus School […]

  3. 3

    Lesley Peterson — December 2, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

    So enjoyed this post, Erin! Amazing to realize that three decades after he was running Bauhaus in Germany, Mies van der Rohe was in Toronto creating what I think is our city’s finest tower complex: the TD Centre. Great design never ages.

    • ehalvey replied: — December 2nd, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

      Mies van de Rohe designed some beautiful buildings. Where is the TD Centre in relation to say the Hockey Hall of Fame? I’m not sure if I saw it on my last visit.

  4. 4

    Jenna — December 2, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    I love this! Great topic, Erin.

    • ehalvey replied: — December 2nd, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

      Thanks! I felt like I needed to change things up since I tend to go medieval. I loved seeing van de Rohe buildings on the architecture cruise I took in Chicago.

  5. 5

    Ashley — December 2, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

    BAUHAUS! Love it! When I was in Barcelona we wanted to visit the German Pavilion, but we were shocked at the ticket price, so decided to appreciate it from the outside, haha.

    • ehalvey replied: — December 3rd, 2013 @ 9:18 am

      Oh, good to know! We ran out of time and never made it up to see it.

  6. 6

    Alexandra — December 3, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    Erin, Lesley – I had the pleasure of working in the TD towers a few summers in high school and university! It is amazing – they are all the same, with everything working on a modular system, so you can find yourself in another tower and it’s… the same. He did the same building in Chicago, near where I later lived in grad school.
    In relation to the hockey hall of fame, a surprising landmark, said towers are to the west, in the main banking area.

    • ehalvey replied: — December 3rd, 2013 @ 9:18 am

      My hotel was near the HHoF, so I can only remember things in relation to it 🙂

  7. 7

    The Wanderfull Traveler — December 3, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

    Great topic Erin.
    I learned very little about the individuals of the Bauhaus but rather the movement as a whole and how they had to disperse when WWII broke out.

    • ehalvey replied: — December 4th, 2013 @ 9:41 am

      I unfortunately didn’t have the time I needed to go in depth, so I had to do a more general take this month.

  8. 8

    Christina — December 3, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

    Awesome post Erin! I did learn a lot 🙂

    When you threw out Downton Abbey, it got me thinking about how radical these designs must have been. We take it for granted now (and buy it for cheap at IKEA, hehe) but modern design as started by the Bauhaus was amazingly different.

    • ehalvey replied: — December 4th, 2013 @ 9:42 am

      Walking through the Gropius House is mind-blowing when you realize it’s from the 30s and looks like an incredibly hyper-modern home on Apartment Therapy.

      I really wanted to steal a Le Corbusier chair…

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