Published in April of 1919, a tract for his new school penned by Walter Gropius expresses the basic tenets of this new school and its unique goal of bringing architects, artisans and artists together to create a new working and training community united by the primacy of architecture and a return to notions of craftsmanship as its guiding ethos. Gropius stressed the vigor of this appeal by dubbing the pamphlet a “manifesto” a decision reminiscent of avant-garde art groups such as the Dadaists and Futurists; making the Bauhaus manifesto the first (but not last) architectural manifesto.
Printed on paper slightly narrower than DIN A4, four pages in length, the Lyonel Feininger “Cathedral” woodcut on its cover: Three stars surround the cathedral spire, symbolizing the three principle arts—painting, architecture and sculpture—united, according to the Bauhaus vision, by the new concern with craft. The text begins with a declaration of principle expressed in the often-cited statement: “The ultimate goal of all art is the building!” Architecture is brought to the fore and declared the school’s most important objective, a concern reflected as well in the very word “Bauhaus”—a term that so synonymous with the school’s ideals it is no longer necessary to translate it. The second important statement refers directly to the cover illustration: “Architects, sculptors, painters—we all must return to craftsmanship!” This declaration heralds a new relationship and new humility toward craftsmanship, toward making, toward the imperative of community and communal goals. In short, this brief sentence contains the basic formulation of the goals and principles of the Bauhaus—the unified work of art, the importance of building.
Gropius wrote his text shortly after the end of World War I. The German empire had collapsed, Russia had undergone a revolution and a second revolution in Germany was in the process of being suppressed. Throughout Germany people felt the necessity for a social and intellectual change. Amidst the general disorder, Gropius pushed forward with his ideas, a combination of the socialist-inspired return to Medieval craft guilds and handicrafts advocated by John Ruskin and others in the nineteenth century Arts and Crafts movement. Gropius sought to unite two old institutional typologies—the art academy and the craft guild—towards similarly progressive ends, combining them within one radically new institutional model: the Bauhaus. By putting workshop training at the core of its curriculum, Gropius made his approach clear: “The artist is an exalted artisan.“
This text is based on an interview by Marion von Osten with Magdalena Droste.
Anja Guttenberger studied art history as well as English and Spanish philology. She received her PhD from the Freie Universität Berlin with her thesis about photographic self-portraits at the Bauhaus. → more
Even though the progressive artists of the interwar period ultimately failed in their plan to realize the new, egalitarian society they had envisioned, their influence was lasting. The international avant-garde produced some of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, some members of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers council for art) occupied important positions at the Bauhaus—above all, its founding director Walter Gropius. → more
The works from Anna Boghiguian shown here are from an installation commissioned by the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) titled A Play to Play as part of the exhibition Tagore’s Universal Allegories in 2013. These works incorporate elements associated with Tagore, from the artist’s frequent visits to Santiniketan. → more
Although the Bauhaus opened its door in 1919, it took more than three years for Gropius to fully organize the school’s faculty, since with the departure of several of the old art school’s professors, such as Max Thedy, Richard Engelmann and Walther Klemm, open positions had to be regularly filled. But Gropius’s first appointments indicated the course set toward an international avant-garde school, a school of invention. → more
Lena Bergner developed carpet patterns applying specific methods learned from Paul Klee discernible in her finished work. The results, however, are quite unique. This is precisely what Klee sought to achieve with his classes at the Bauhaus: to point to paths of design so that the formal language is not arbitrary, without, however, prescribing predetermined outcomes. → more
Kawakita called the educational activities that developed around the central axis of the School of New Architecture and Design “kōsei education.” The term “compositional/structural education” is often taken nowadays to refer to a preparatory course in composition derived from the Bauhaus—plastic arts training in which plastic elements such as color, form and materials are treated abstractly. → more
The art school Kala Bhavan was founded by the poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1919 at Santiniketan, a utopian community about 100 miles north of Calcutta established in the previous century by the poet’s father, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore. Born out of the need to rehabilitate traditional Indian culture after the demoralizing impact of British rule, the school was established as an experiment in education that broke with academic tradition, and created a form of rural modernism decoupled from industrial modernization. → more
Mazdaznan had a significant although often misunderstood impact on the life and work of Johannes Itten, a key figure in the development of the Weimar Bauhaus. A devout practitioner of Mazdaznan, he was responsible for introducing it to students of the Bauhaus in the early 1920s. This essay explores the intimate relationship between Itten, Mazdaznan and the Bauhaus and, in so doing, also underscores how in its infancy the Bauhaus was very different from its later incarnation as a school associated primarily with technical innovation. → more
The Otolith Group have been commissioned to produce 'The O Horizon' for bauhaus imaginista, a new film containing studies of Kala Bhavana as well as the wider environments of Santiniketan and Sriniketan. Through rare footage of art, craft, music and dance, it explores the material production of the school and its community as well as the metaphysical inclinations that guided Tagore’s approach to institution building. → more
"My method of bringing new life to archival images is to look at what happens at the margins rather than the center of a picture. I am also obsessed with making links, based on the belief that everything is connected. And also with what I call “narrative environments,” mediating spaces facilitating new forms of engagement." Luca Frei is a commissioned artist for bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With. He talks about his approach to his installation for the exhibition at MoMAK in Kyoto. → more
Unlike the Bauhaus, Kala Bhavana had no written manifesto or curriculum. However, a corpus of writing developed around the school, largely produced by the school’s artists and teachers. The academic Partha Mitter, whose own writing has explored the interplay between the struggle against colonialism, modernism, and the cultural avant-garde in India, has selected a group of texts on education in Santiniketan. → more
The impact of the Bauhaus teaching methods reached far beyond Germany. Conversely, throughout its existence, a Japanese sensibility permeated the Bauhaus, springing from the Japonisme of individual professors, until its closure in 1933. This article analyzes the reciprocal impact of German and Japanese design education in the interbellum period in order to shed new light on the tightly knit network of associations then connecting Japan and Europe. → more
My artistic practice working primarily with abstract folded paper objects led me to Josef Albers and his similar obsession with paper as an instructional medium. Initially looking for pleated paper forms and to learn more about the history of these techniques, I have since been swept up in the maelstrom of Albers' pedagogical mindset. It's difficult to look at one area of his thinking and not get pulled into many other directions, finding yourself challenged at every turn. → more
In the late nineteenth century the self-styled Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish founded Mazdaznan, a quasi-religious movement of vegetarian diet and body consciousness, which flourished across the USA and Europe until the 1940's. The Egyptian Postures is a guide to the most advanced Mazdaznan exercises that Johannes Itten taught his students at the Bauhaus. This edition of Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha’nish’s original instructions has been newly edited and illustrated by Ian Whittlesea with images of actor Ery Nzaramba demonstrating the postures. → more