It was born as a school, a school where students would come and learn how to make things.
The first line of Gropius’ manifesto reads, “the ultimate aim of all visual arts is the complete building! Isn’t Walter Gropius supposed to have been a harsh and humorless advocate for the idea that architecture is tantamount to the design and construction of undecorated concrete bunkers?
But Bauhaus went further than any of those movements in its embrace of what we now think of as the Modern with a big ‘M’. The biggest question when it comes to Bauhaus is whether the movement lost – or found – its way through the course of the 20th century.
The beginnings of an answer to that question can be found in Weimar Germany just at the end of WWI.
The second essay will explore the middle period, as Bauhaus – now a set of ideas and some key individuals – left Germany and moved into western Europe and then America.
The final essay will treat the later years of Bauhaus up until the present.” This sentence is surprising for a number of reasons. For those who have read books like Tom Wolfe’s angry and excoriating (and very funny) , or any of the nearly infinite number of popular, scholarly and academic attacks on Bauhaus-style Modernism, the exclamation mark at the end of Gropius’ first sentence is disconcerting.It speaks of a passion and excitement and humanity that has little to do with our popular image of Bauhaus and the International Style of architecture and design.This new vision for an art school was explicitly intended to combine knowledge of modern techniques for making things with a medieval attitude toward how and why you are making them.Gropius and his allies were going to save the modern world by shoving it as hard as they could both backward and forward at the same time.2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of The Bauhaus.In honor of this anniversary, I will be publishing three essays exploring the history of The Bauhaus. We’ll move more or less chronologically starting here with the early history of the school.Here’s another line from the manifesto: “Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist!” I need not, anymore, draw your attention to the exclamation marks.This tradition-soaked Modernism, if we can call it that, was evident in many of the writings of those who would be associated with the Bauhaus, like Wassily Kandinsky, whose “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” voices many of the same ideas that Gropius expressed in his manifesto. , put together mostly by Kandinsky and Franz Marc, reads like a sister-volume to the “Bauhaus Manifesto and Program.” Kandinsky and Marc, for all the radicalism of their early experiments in abstraction and non-representationalism in painting, filled the almanac (which was meant to be a kind of guidebook to their shared aesthetic sensibility) with copious examples of pre-modern art and craft.“The artist is an exalted craftsman.” An exalted craftsman.