“The Attack on the Bauhaus”

A Collage that Became a Symbol of the Closure of the Bauhaus

Kokusai-Kenchiku (国際建築), Vol. 8, No. 12, Tokyo,
December 1932, pp. 270–272, pp. 272.
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, © Yamawaki Iwao & Michiko Archives.

For the Yamawaki couple, their studies at the Dessau Bauhaus ended with the closure of the Dessau site. Iwao’s luggage for his return home also included his collage Der Schlag gegen das Bauhaus. It was first published in the architecture magazine Kokusai kenchiku in December 1932. Iwao let the collage speak for itself, publishing it without comment.

In Yamawaki Iwao’s famous collage Der Schlag gegen das Bauhaus (The Attack on the Bauhaus), three men march from the upper right corner into the center of the picture. The energetic striding, the sound of boot heels can be almost heard, because two of the three wear boots and uniforms. The head of the third man is cropped, so it may well be that even more men will burst into the scene. The first man in uniform, who has nearly arrived in the middle of the picture is similar in appearance (and may well be) SA Chief of Staff Ernst Röhm (1887–1934), who was appointed in 1931. In his left hand he holds an object that may be a whip, riding crop or iron rod. This object has probably been collaged into the hand, as the colors of the person and the object differ slightly from each other. The second man is dressed in civilian clothes, with a hat and a dark coat, and a briefcase clamped under his left arm. The striking upturned moustache, round glasses and short neck unmistakably belong to Alfred Hugenberg (1865–1951), a successful media mogul of the 1920s and 1930s, who owned the Hugenberg Group and Scherl-Verlag (magazine and newspaper publisher), and was instrumental in developing the media strategies that brought Hitler to power. Röhm (let us assume here that it is Röhm) looks to the left and Hugenberg’s gaze is directed straight towards the viewer. Together they seem to have the scene completely under control.

The three men march across the facade of the Dessau Bauhaus, which bisects the picture diagonally from the lower edge upwards and out to the right. The glass facade of the workshop building, as well as the south view with its iconic vertical lettering spelling out “Bauhaus” in capital letters, have fallen over but remain interlocked and now serve the three men as a stage. Further back on the glass façade, a group of men in uniform and with swastika armbands march determinedly towards the left, filmed by a cameraman. A platoon four rows deep stand at attention, their ranks stretching back to the picture’s horizon line, ready for action. The end of the deployment is not in sight. The back rows look as if they may have been drawn by hand. The first victims of the conflict are already scattered in the upper left corner of the picture, crumpled on the ground (a single figure is looking up as if injured). They wear light-colored clothing, clearly different from the men in uniform and, when viewed closely, resemble children in their proportions.

At the bottom left side of the picture, close to the viewer, four young people—a woman and three men—protrude into the scene. They are dressed in blouses or shirts and suit jackets, and make an angry impression. Their mouths are open and they appear to be shouting. One of the men clenches his right fist. This grouping are superimposed with another photograph—the four floors of balconies of the Bauhaus studio building, photographed from a bird’s-eye view. On each of the balconies stands a Bauhäusler.

The overall effect of the picture is that of a theater scene, one anticipating an approaching catastrophe. Shortly before the end, the curtain falls and the viewer is left alone with the end as yet uncertain.

The scene described takes place on a sepia-colored collage, whose format is slightly smaller than DIN A3 (28.8 x 38.5 cm). The collage was designed in 1932 by Yamawaki Iwao, a Japanese architect who studied at the Bauhaus in the early 1930s, shortly before it was closed by National Socialist authorities.

An Architect whose Most Famous Work is a Collage: Yamawaki Iwao

Yamawaki Iwao studied with his wife Michiko at the Bauhaus in Dessau from the winter semester of 1930 to the summer semester of 1932. When Iwao began his studies at the Bauhaus, he had already completed his architectural studies at what was then called Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko (Tokyo Art Academy), and had also had four years of professional experience as a technical draughtsman in the Yokogawa architectural office in Tokyo. Although the Yokogawa office was known at the time for its technically innovative approach and challenging projects in Tokyo, Iwao was on the lookout for new impulses. When the then 30-year-old Iwao agreed in 1928 to an arranged wedding with the wealthy Yamawaki Michiko, who was 12-year younger, he made a deal with his future father-in-law. Iwao took the family name Yamawaki and in return received financial support to study abroad, at the Bauhaus in Dessau. This is how Iwao and Michiko found themselves traveling to Germany in 1930.

Despite his prior studies and professional experience in Japan, both Iwao and Michiko (who had no previous training in art or design) attended the preparatory courses of Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky before enrolling in Mies van der Rohe’s architecture class in the second year. The couple wrote enthusiastically about the teaching methods of Albers and Kandinsky. But even though his primary focus was on architecture, there is comparatively little information in Iwao’s notes concerning Mies van der Rohe’s course. Nor is there a record of drafts, plans or models made by Iwao during his time at the Bauhaus. Instead, numerous photographs have been preserved: portraits of Bauhäuslers, snapshots documenting everyday life at the Bauhaus, architectural photographs, micrographs, and collages.

In his reports, which Iwao wrote for Japanese media, and in his correspondence with an addressee (unknown to us today) in Japan, Iwao described his impression of the Bauhaus. In one letter Iwao sent on December 21, 1930, he wrote briefly about purchasing a large camera, which was used intensively afterwards. Kawahata Naomichi, who in 1995 wrote Michiko’s biography, described Iwao as a meticulous recorder (記録魔) of his environment.

During his studies at the Bauhaus, Iwao became friends with Kurt Kranz (1910–1997). This friendship was to last even after the two men’s studies, despite the great geographical distance between them. Kranz was not only a friend, Iwao’s collages show that he was inspired by his work. A trained lithographer prior to coming to the Bauhaus, Kranz was active at the Bauhaus in, among other things, the advertising workshop of Joost Schmidt and the photography class of Walter Peterhans. Iwao also went in and out of these classes. In a letter Iwao sent to Japan on 24 March 1931, he wrote about both departments, expressing a wish that a Japanese designer might come to the Bauhaus to study these subjects intensively for two to three years.

Already since his first studies in Tokyo Iwao had a passion for theater, especially for stage set design. In 1926 he had become a member of the avant-garde artist group Tanisanka (単位三科), a group that not only discussed art and architecture but also staged plays, designing and building their own stage sets. With one exception Tanisanka consisted mainly of young architects—Nakada Sadanosuke (仲田定之助 1888–1970), who together with Ishimoto Kikuji (石本喜久治 1894–1963) were the first Japanese people to visit the Bauhaus, arriving in Weimar in November 1922. Nakada was an important contact person for Iwao during the preparation period for his studies at the Bauhaus, as he had not only seen the Bauhaus with his own eyes but also returned to Japan with plenty of visual material from Germany. In Germany, Iwao continued to pursue his interests in theater. The Yamawakis often spent their weekends in Berlin, where they had rented a room. In Berlin they were connected to a circle of Japanese friends centered around the actor and director Senda Korea (千田是也 1904–1994). Together they attended theater performances and staged plays themselves. Iwao used collage to sketch and document the stage sets he saw in Berlin theaters. At the same time, he found his ideal method of representation to visualize ideas for his own stage sets.

Iwao used his own photographs in his collages, but also found visual material in newspapers and magazines. During the afternoon break, he regularly bought editions of the AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) from the newspaper man who offered them directly in the Bauhaus canteen. The left-liberal newspaper (AIZ for short) was very popular with the Bauhäuslers. In Der Schlag gegen das Bauhaus, excerpts from the AIZ were used. The two collaged elements showing the façade of the Bauhaus are photographs Iwao took himself: the photo depicting “Bauhaus” spelled out in vertical lettering down the Dessau workshop’s south façade is from 1931. Iwao probably took the bird’s eye view of the four balconies from the article that ran on page three of the 7 August 1932 edition of the Berliner Tagesspiegel reporting on the Bauhaus’s closure. This photograph was attributed to A. P. Alfred Eisenstaedt in the article. According to Akio Izutsu’s article in the publication The Bauhaus a Japanese PerspectiveAnd a Profile of Hans and Florence Schust Knoll, Iwao took further collage material from AIZ editions of 1931 and 1932. He borrowed the title of the collage, Der Schlag gegen das Bauhaus, from the title of a Berlin daily newspaper article reporting on the closure of the Bauhaus dated 23 August 1932. This can be read in the “Report C” that Iwao sent back to Japan on 4 September 1932, where he himself wrote about the closure of the Bauhaus and the circumstances.

For the Yamawaki couple, their studies at the Dessau Bauhaus ended with the closure of the Dessau site. They did not accept Mies van der Rohe’s invitation to continue their studies in Berlin. Michiko was faced with family obligations, and so after two years in Dessau the couple decided to return to Japan. The Yamawaki’s took numerous Bauhaus works and products which they had purchased from fellow students and teachers back with them to Japan. These objects became not only part of the home furnishings of their sophisticated Tokyo apartment, but also of the Bauhaus archive established by the Yamawaki’s. They also used what they had brought as study objects, making them available as a source of inspiration for aspiring Japanese designers.

Iwao’s luggage also included Der Schlag gegen das Bauhaus, which Iwao originally wished to exhibit at the Bauhaus at the semester’s end. On the advice of a German friend, Iwao took the unpublished collage back to Japan, where it was first published in the architecture magazine Kokusai kenchiku (国際建築) in December 1932, together with an amended version of “Report C” dealing with the closure of the Bauhaus. Iwao let the collage—this, the violent last scene of the Bauhaus in Dessau, shortly before the curtain fell—speak for itself, publishing it without comment.

* Japanese personal names were listed according to the Japanese system, i.e. the surname precedes the first name.


Der Weltspiegel, Vol. 32, No. 32, (Berliner Tageblatt) Berlin, 17 August 1932.

Magdalena Droste: BAUHAUS – 1919–1933 Reform und Avantgarde, Taschen, Köln 2015.

Izutsu Akio: The Bauhaus a Japanese Perspective – And a profile of Hans and Florence Schust Knoll, Kajima Institute Publishing, Tokyo 1992.

Kawahata Naomichi, “Yamawaki Iwao—His Life and Work,” (川畑直道:山脇巌の生涯と作品), pp. 34–79. In: Bauhaus Photography. Déjà-vu—A Photography Quarterly, No. 19, Spring 1995, Photoplanet, Tokyo 1995.

Kokusai-Kenchiku (国際建築), Vol. 8, No. 12, Tokyo, December 1932, pp. 270–272, pp. 465–469.

Eckard Neumann (ed.): Bauhaus und Bauhäusler—Erinnerungen und Bekenntnisse, DuMont Buchverlag, Köln 1985.

Umemiya Hiromitsu: “Sadanosuke Nakada and Modernist Architects: From the Context of Acceptance of Bauhaus in Japan,” pp. 677–699. In: T. Omuka and Hiromitsu Umemiya (eds.): Selected Literary Works of Art Critic Sadanosuke Nakada (梅宮 弘光:仲田定之助とモダニスト建築家たち-日本におけるバウハウス受容史に沿って), Yumani Shobo, Tokyo 2016.

Yamawaki Iwao: Keyaki (Japanese Zelkove), (山脇巌:欅), Atorie-sha, Tokyo 1942.

Yamawaki Iwao: Die Personen des Bauhauses (山脇巌:バウハウスの人々), Shokoku-sha, Tokyo 1954.

Yamawaki Iwao: Keyaki continuation (Japanese Zelkove, continuation), (山脇巌:欅), Inoueshoin, Tokyo 1973.

Yamawaki Iwao: 山脇巌バウハウスの憶い出 (バウハウス芸術教育の革命と実験 (Erinnerungen an das Bauhaus), pp. 160–162. In: Bauhaus Revolution und Experiment der Kunstausbildung, Kawasaki City Museum, Kawasaki 1994.

Yamawaki Michiko: 山脇道子バウハウスと茶の湯 (Bauhaus and Tea Ceremony), Shincho-sha, Tokyo 1995.

●Latest Articles
The Bauhaus Manifesto — Conversation with Magdalena Droste

Gropius wrote his Bauhaus manifesto 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. → more

Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus-Manifest

Das Bauhaus wandte sich von Anfang an vom Nationalismus ab und dem Kosmopolitismus und Internationalismus zu, eine Orientierung, die es schließlich mit dem emporkommenden Nationalsozialismus in Widerspruch brachte. Die Schule korrespondierte auch mit zeitgenössischen Bildungsinitiativen in anderen Teilen der Welt, darunter die Kala Bhavan (Kunstschule) in Santiniketan, Indien. Das Bauhaus wirkte durch seine Schriften und Studierenden auch auf andere Schulen in Japan. → more

“The Art!—That’s one Thing! When it’s there” — On the History of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst in the Early Weimar Republic

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

Towards a Tangible Pedagogy — Dimensions of Tactility at the Bauhaus

In the epistemic context of a fundamental skepticism towards the existing knowledge system, the Bauhaus school was in pursuit of “unlearning”: dismissing conventional learning and promoting pre- linguistic, intuitive approaches- which also led to adoptions of non-academic modes of perception and included an interest in pre-modern knowledge systems. → more

Shifting, Rotating, Mirroring 
 — Lena Bergner’s Minutes of Paul Klee’s Classes

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

Bauhaus Weimar International — Visions and Projects 1919–1925

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

Gertrud Grunow’s Theory of Harmonization — A Connection between European Reform Pedagogy and Asian Meditation?

In this essay Linn Burchert sheds some light on the darkness obscuring Grunow’s practice by presenting the background and details of Grunow’s teaching, concluding by examining the striking parallels between her harmonization teaching and meditative and yogic practices, which had already been introduced at the Bauhaus in Johannes Itten’s preliminary course. → more

Three Preliminary Courses: Itten, Moholy-Nagy, Albers

It was the special qualities of the Swiss artist Johannes Itten, whose career as a primary and secondary school teacher was characterized by adherence to the principles of reform pedagogy, to have introduced a stabilizing structural element into the still unstable early years of the Bauhaus: the preliminary course which—in addition to the dual concept of teaching artistic and manual skills and thinking—was to remain a core part of Bauhaus pedagogy, despite considerable historical changes and some critical objections, until the closure of the school in 1933. → more

●Artist Text
Open Your Eyes — Breathing New Life Into Bauhaus Papercuts

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

A Mystic Milieu — Johannes Itten and Mazdaznan at Bauhaus Weimar

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

Johannes Itten and Mazdaznan at the Bauhaus

Having experimented with Mazdaznan’s teachings on nutrition, breathing and character while studying at the Stuttgart Academy of Art (1913–16), Johannes Itten used these findings for the first time as a “teaching and educational system” while directing his Viennese painting school (1916–19). By 1918/19 at the latest (still before his move to the Bauhaus), Itten had also learned about Mazdaznan’s racial model. But how did the racialist worldview of the Swiss Bauhaus “master” affect Bauhaus practice? → more

●Artist Text
The Egyptian Postures

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

The Bauhaus, the Nazis and German Post War Nation Building Processes

On 4 May 1968 the exhibition 50 Years of the Bauhaus was opened at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart. Designed by Herbert Bayer and conceived amongst others by Hans Maria Wingler and Ludwig Grote, the exhibition was shown in eight museums worldwide until 1971. To this day, it is considered one of the most influential post-war exhibitions on the Bauhaus and was of great significance in the course of the nation building process for the still-young Federal Republic. Fifty years later the Württembergischer Kunstverein undertook a critical rereading of the historical exhibition, which created a long-term image and brand of Bauhaus that has been and still needs to be called in question: not least in such a year of jubilation. → more

●Artist Text
The Legacies of the Bauhaus — For the Present and the Future

“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

Naked Functionalism and the Anti-Aesthetic — The Activities of Renshichirō Kawakita in the 1930s

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 Bauhaus and the Tea Ceremony

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

Johannes Itten’s Interest in Japanese Ink Painting — Shounan Mizukoshi and Yumeji Takehisa’s Japanese ink painting classes at the Itten-Schule

It’s widely known that Johannes Itten had an interest in Asian philosophy and art. He had a series of fruitful encounters with Japanese artists while leading his Itten-Schule art institute in Berlin (1926–34). In this article Yoshimasa Kaneko presents his research of these exchanges: In 1931 Nanga painter Shounan Mizukoshi taught Japanese ink painting in Nanga style at the Itten-Schule; in 1932 Jiyu Gakuen students Mitsuko Yamamuro and Kazuko Imai (Married name: Sasagawa) studied there; and finally, in 1933 the painter and poet Yumeji Takehisa also taught Japanese ink painting (including Nanga style) at Itten’s invitation. → more

●Artist Work
The O Horizon — A Film Produced for bauhaus imaginista

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

A Virtual Cosmopolis — Bauhaus and Kala Bhavan

The Bauhaus is renowned for its contribution to modernist architecture and design. Less known but equally significant is its pioneering role in opening up a transcultural network that created the conditions for global conversations on art and design as early as the 1920s. → more

Reclaiming the National — Against Nationalism

The question of how one resists populist nationalism is both obvious and fiendishly difficult. This sounds like a paradoxical proposition, and, indeed, it is. I am inspired by an early critique of nationalism which bears an uncanny resonance in today’s world: a critique that was made in 1916 by the Bengal poet and visionary, Rabindranath Tagore, during a lecture tour in Japan, in the midst of the First World War. → more

Sriniketan and Beyond — Arts and Design Pedagogy in the Rural Sphere

In this article Natasha Ginwala examines how certain Bauhaus ideas flowed into Tagore’s pedagogic experiment and rural reconstruction program at Sriniketan (created in 1921–22), as well as the engagement with design Dashrath Patel, the founding secretary of the National Institute of Design (NID) and its leading pedagogue, pursued in the rural sphere. → more

Santiniketan — Rules of Metaphor and Other Pedagogic Tools

This essay was occasioned by the Delhi exhibition of the Hangzhou chapter of bauhaus imaginista and the accompanying seminar in December 2018. The overarching brief of the seminar was to discuss the pedagogic aspects of schools in various parts of the world that are relatable to the practices of Bauhaus. Specifically, the essay attempts to capture the foundational moments of Kala Bhavana, the art school in Santiniketan that, incidentally, also steps into its centenary year in 2019. → more

●Text Compilation
News from Santiniketan — A Text Compilation of Educational Texts from Santiniketan

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

Bauhaus Calcutta

ln December 1922, ‘The Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of the lndian Society of Oriental Art’ was held at Samavaya Bhavan, number seventeen Park Street. Paintings by artists from the ‘Bengal school’—all of them members of the lndian Society of Oriental Arts—were exhibited. Most of these artists painted in a manner, which would have been recognisable as that school’s invention, a particularly lndian signature style, with mythology as preferred subject. Hung on the other side of the hall was a large selection of works from the Bauhaus.  → more

●Video and Introduction
Ritwik’s Ramkinker — A Film in the Process

Ritwik Ghatak’s film Ramkinker Baij: A Personality Study on the sculptor from Santiniketan is like a spurt, a sudden expression of ebullient enthusiasm from a friend, who is said to have shared artistic affinities with him. Incidentally, it also registers, through a conversational method, the process of discovering the artist, who was embedded, organic, yet global and most advanced for his time. → more

●Artist Work
Anna Boghiguian — A Play to Play

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

+ Add this text to your collection!