FEATURE: How the Bauhaus Went West ; It Only Lasted 13 Years, but the Bauhaus's Influence on Art, Architecture and Design Remains Enormous. as a New Exhibition Shows, Josef Albers, One of Its Leading Figures, Brought Its Ideas of Modernism to an Entire Generation of American Artists through His Example and His Teaching. Tom Rosenthal Reports
reports, Tom Rosenthal, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
The 20th century was ripe with artistic movements and styles from Cubism to Pop, from Art Nouveau, via Art Deco, to Post-Modernism. But only one movement was institutional in character, gave itself its own name rather than having one applied post hoc by critics and only one had a long life and is indeed still with us. Bauhaus is that movement, that style, that institution' one that had a beginning, a middle, even a kind of apotheosis and, happily as yet, no end.
The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, although it voted to disband itself in 1925. In the same year it re-established itself in Dessau where it stayed until 1932 when it moved to Berlin and set itself up in a disused telephone factory. In that same year, as one of its histories relates, "the final dissolution of the Bauhaus is decided upon at a staff conference".
The following year Hitler and the Nazis swept to power. Although the Bauhaus was far from being a Jewish institution, its intellectual vigour and its artistic philosophy were so inimical to the ideology of the Third Reich that they had in effect merely jumped before they were pushed. Almost as many of its key figures were included in the Nazis' list of "entartete Kunst", degenerate art, as those who, from 1933 onwards, left Germany.
Mere lists of names can be both boring and daunting, yet one has no choice here but to list at least some of the people, apart from Gropius, who were, at various times and often for lengthy periods, part of the most significant teaching and practising artistic institution of the twentieth century: Paul Klee, Vassili Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Hannes Meyer, Oskar Schlemmer, Marcel Breuer, Johannes Itten, Josef and Anni Albers.
There is certainly a case to be made that the single most influential painter to emerge was Josef Albers simply because, until his late seventies he continued to teach as well as paint. He had been born in the rather dreary Ruhr industrial city of Bottrop in 1888 of Roman Catholic artisan stock. By being a certificated art teacher he avoided service in the First World War and began to work in glass, both stained and natural, and obtained a commission to build a stained glass window for a Bottrop church.
While he was, in youth, a more than competent figurative painter and draughtsman in a more or less Expressionist mode, this did not last once he discovered, via a leaflet illustrated by Feininger, the existence of the Bauhaus in which he enrolled as a student in Weimar in 1920.
Dozens of books have been written about the Bauhaus but there is probably no more telling single sentence than that of the intellectual historian and biographer of Sigmund Freud Peter Gay: "What Gropius taught, and what most Germans did not want to learn, was the lesson of Bacon and Descartes and the Enlightenment: that one must confront the world and dominate it, that the cure for the ills of modernity is more, and the right kind of modernity."
Being part of the Bauhaus was powerfully significant for Albers. He made a lifelong friend of Kandinsky. His overlapping with Moholy- Nagy for five years has inspired the overwhelming exhibition about to open at Tate Modern. Above all it was Albers's progress from student to master which doubtless simultaneously fed his artistic creativity and his pedagogical zeal.
Albers was at the Bauhaus from 1920 until its dissolution in 1932. In 1925, he had married Annelise Fleischmann, a Bauhaus weaving student and a member of the Ullstein publishing dynasty. A large section of that family had taken part in the nineteenth century in a mass conversion to Christianity. As Anni Albers she became one of the world's leading textile designers. But, as the Nuremberg racial laws were enacted, Anni's theoretical Christianity was not …
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Publication information: Article title: FEATURE: How the Bauhaus Went West ; It Only Lasted 13 Years, but the Bauhaus's Influence on Art, Architecture and Design Remains Enormous. as a New Exhibition Shows, Josef Albers, One of Its Leading Figures, Brought Its Ideas of Modernism to an Entire Generation of American Artists through His Example and His Teaching. Tom Rosenthal Reports. Contributors: reports, Tom Rosenthal - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent on Sunday (London, England). Publication date: March 5, 2006. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent on Sunday. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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