Page 1 of 3Walter Gropius had been released from military service in November of 1918 as a lieutenant, he was 35. Before the war he had considered himself a conservative but due to events of the revolution he witnessed in Berlin that fall, he realized that he had to bring himself into line with a new time and fell into a progressive mindset. “After the war, it dawned on me…the old stuff was out.”
He became part of the Werkbund movement in Berlin, which had attempted to integrate art and economics. They sought the acceptance of the German public for innovative art and architecture and greater participation by artists in the social and cultural programs the of the newly established government. What lacked in this movement the Bauhaus picked up on in the combining of the Grand-Ducal Saxon Academy of Fine Arts with the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts. Gropius convinced theses two schools in Weimar to combine efforts and thus began the Bauhaus. Now creative imagination was working side by side with the practicality of craftsmanship and so became the new sense of functional design which is what the Bauhaus is all about.
Gropius inherited faculty from the old Academy of Fine Art, but he also wanted to bring in teachers who shared his thoughts about the arts. His first recruit was Lyonel Feiniger, he had lived in Weimar and was already noted and accomplished as an artist.
The Bauhaus’s first exhibition was in 1923, art from both teachers and students was shown and the purpose was to demonstrate the school’s accomplishments. Some felt this presentation of work was possibly premature and might not show the public their ultimate capability as a school of innovation. The school was already financially unstable and disapproval of the public could possibly hurt future funding. But on the pressure was on for the exhibition and in August there was a “Bauhaus Week” held, full of modern dance performances, student bands, etc.
In 1919 Walter Gropius formed an art school that centered around moving towards a better understanding between art and technology, for the benefit of both combining the role of the artist and the craftsman. This mindset was applied from everything from textiles to typography and even theater. The influence of the Bauhaus is greatly widespread even though the school was so short lived (1919-1938). Even today we see the schools design innovations in our offices, homes, books and especially our architecture. In addition to manufactured items typography was also affected.
Due to rising pressure from the political side of life the Bauhaus was forced to leave Weimar in 1925 and set up house in Dessau where there was an understanding and less conservative mayor who welcomed them to his city. Here there was the opportunity to build their own school and make it a place that appealed to their aesthetic concepts. The school they constructed still stands today. Though the mayor was welcoming he was replaced shortly after their move and pressure was on the rise again. In 1933 the school was forced to shut down. One professor refused to let the school die and attempted to open up a private version in Berlin. It was a small group that quickly went to work in an old shoe factory building workshops and continuing with the concepts from Dessau. The idea was to produce enough goods for sale and work with various companies for large production agreements. The school was soon on the radar of the National Socialists and as Hitler detested the Avant Garde with a passion he sought to shut down the movent once and for all. One spring day the students were picked up by police trucks and taken from the school where their book and art was destroyed. Many of the students and professors left for America where they could be free to express themselves since the new government disliked Impressionistic and Avand Gard artwork and would not allow it.
In 1937 The New Bauhaus was founded in Chicago.
More info on the Bauhaus – Chicago
The school has three main focus points at its creation:
- To help the arts from their current state of isolation and to get artists and craftsmen to combine their efforts for a greater understanding.
- To elevate the status of crafts (chairs, lamps, teapots, etc) to the level of appreciation of fine arts.
- Maintain communication with the leaders of industry and craft in attempt to eventually gain financial independence for the school from the government, by selling designs to companies.