Research Project – Bauhaus

Bauhaus is a German school of art, design, and architecture, founded by Walter Gropius. It was active in Weimar from 1919 to 1925, in Dessau from 1925 to 1932, and in Berlin from 1932 to 1933 (Wick, 2009). An unrivalled array of avant-garde artists once gathered here, Johannes Itten, László Moholy-Nagy, Joost Schmidt, Vasily Kandinsky, Marcel Breuer, Georg Muche, Oskar Schlemmer, Paul Klee, and Hannes Meyer, to name a few.

Bauhaus started a design movement in Germany, combining all the arts (architecture, sculpture, and painting) in ideal unity, which was opposed to academic specialization pervasive at the time. Its manifesto asserts that schools must return to the workshop, that architects, painters, sculptors must all return to crafts, and that there is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The school believed that it is in handicraft where the original source of creativity lies. Therefore, artists and craftsmen directed classes and production together at the Bauhaus (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009). Worth noticing, not only the philosophy facilitated the outburst of creativity in the Bauhaus school, the idea of unifying all the arts in one product is creative. Later the philosophy of Bauhaus transferred from Expressionism to Functionalism, “art and technology – a new unity”. The move away from craft towards industry reflected the disenchantment from pathos of the immediate post-war period when machines were gravely doubted, and coincided the penetration of Russian Constructivism and realization of industrial potentials to satisfy both functional and aesthetic needs (Wick, 2009). Although numerous transforms occurred due to changes in directorship, masters, artistic influence and political situation, the consequences of the Bauhaus experiment and practice reach far and deep into contemporary life.

Moreover, the success of Bauhaus verifies the 4-P model of creativity – person, process, place & product. One example comes from the photography class. In 1929 a photography class was founded under the leadership of Walter Peterhans. Here, students even with nonchalant amateurishness were cultivated, whose creativity were provoked and restored (person). The masters imparted not only photographic theory and practice, but also precise vision and creative problem-solving techniques, deliberately nurturing the creative abilities of the students (process). Meanwhile, a lively photographic scene with an optimistic, high-spirited atmosphere was booming (place). Consequently, the students experimented many techniques, produced numerous wonderful works, and supplied us with details of the everyday life at the Bauhaus (product) (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009).

The 4-P model of creativity can also be applied to many other aspects of Bauhaus. As mentioned above, the philosophy of Bauhaus advocates the unity of art and craft, believing that handicraft is the original source of creativity. Based on this belief, they established several workshops such as metal, weaving, pottery, furniture, typography, and wall painting workshops, to assist the preliminary course and three-year courses, where the creativity of the students are turned into products. The preliminary course, established by one of the most influential personalities on early Bauhaus Johannes Itten, was designed to purge residual academic tendencies from novices and to activate their individual artistic potential (person), by imparting basic qualifications in creativity and emphasizing the emotional experience of form, color, and the dynamics of a work of art (process) (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009). In Josef Albers’ preliminary course, the students are given great autonomy to enable “discovery” and “invention” (person). And only specific choice of raw materials was allowed to avoid solutions based on previous experience and to develop an unprejudiced approach to the assignment (process) (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009). Moholy-Nagy repeatedly drew attention to the role of intuition in the creative process and underlined that it was indispensable to combine conscious analysis with the powers of dynamic intuition (person). Vassily Kandinsky was open to other solutions besides design theory. Marcel Breuer developed his designs against existing conventions, which looseness in the atmosphere was extremely beneficial to the school of thought (place). And the goal of Hannes Meyer’s free painting class was conscious and independent creative work (person) (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009). Owning to these contributions to value and arouse creativity, numerous art, metal, weaving, pottery, furniture, typography, painting, architecture and photography products are created.

The origins of the Bauhaus school lay in attempts in the 19th and early 20th centuries to re-establish the bond between artistic creativity and manufacturing that had been broken by the Industrial Revolution. The manifesto of combining all the arts in ideal unity is the most important creative thinking and problem solving aspect of the Bauhaus school, which motto itself is creative, opposing impractical academic studio education. Since its starting up, the unprejudiced approach, the experimental attitude, the practice to activate their individual artistic potential, the autonomy to enable “discovery” and “invention”, and the optimistic and high-spirited atmosphere set tone for the success of the Bauhaus school and generates infinite creativity and originality.

Some famous works of the masters and students also manifest the Bauhaus school’s creative features and design principles. The portfolio for Walter Gropius “1924 18/V” is one of the most famous works, where six Bauhaus masters presented Walter Gropius the unique joint work for his 41st birthday. Each master utilized a most fascinating manner of artistic expression form to deploy the theme defined with a photograph depicting the announcement of the vote results over wireless receivers (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009). These works respectively represented the design theories and creative credos of the masters. For example, Oskar Schlemmer depicted a radio with a kind of technical drawing, which exhibited his emphasis on conformity and rationalization. And the purely constructivist composition by Moholy-Nagy manifested his understanding of composition versus construction, as well as systematization and balance.

Besides, the lattice chair designed by Marcel Breuer fulfilled the school’s motto to combine art and technology, aesthetic pleasance and inherent function. The Light-Space modulator by Moholy-Nagy composed of color, light, and movement, which was a synthesis of his artistic ideas. As an essentially artistic means of expression, typography at the Bauhaus was closely connected to corporate identity, with unadorned prints, distinct symbols, and direct combination of text and photography. The building projects participated by students realized the proclaimed aim in the manifesto that “all creativity is building” (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009).

Reference

Flanagan, L (2002). The Bauhaus (Per)forms. Retrieved March 13th, 2009, from http://etd.lasu.edu

Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH (2009). Bauhaus 1919-33. Bauhaus-Archive Museum of Design. Retrieved February 28th, 2009, from http://www.bauhaus.de/english/index.htm

Wick, R (2009). Bauhaus. Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 6th, 2009, from http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?theme_id=10950&displayall=1#skipToContent

Appendix

1. Portfolio for Walter Gropius “1924 18/V”

Portfolio for Walter Gropius "1924 18/V"

(Flanagan, 2002)

Paul Klee’s variant offers a clever diagram of a failed information transfer. A bright red arrow – symbolical of the message emerging from the megaphone – meets a fragile “ear” and engenders on the other side of it a little green exclamation mark. The message has been transmitted, even if only in a complementary color and therefore transformed into its opposite.

Oskar Schlemmer also reduces the newspaper photograph to a diagram. At the bottom of the sheet, a radio is depicted in a kind of technical drawing; at the top, one sees a representation of the anatomy of the inner ear. On the side, the ratio of the machine versus the human organ is expressed in an elementary equation: 1 x 1 = 1. The transmitter and the receiver are united in the action of communication.

László Moholy-Nagy transforms the motif into a purely constructivist composition, paying no heed to the meaningful content. Falling diagonals mark on three sides the instable frame. Receiver and sound projector become respectively square and circle. The leafless tree of the photograph appears as a black cross with its negative projection in form of a white inclined cross shape.

Kandinsky’s dramatic composition shows a structure of litigating colors, forms, and forces. A yellow triangle – relic of the sound projector – strikes out from the oblique windowsill towards the center. The diagonal movement, many times interrupted by transversal barriers, is resumed through bundles of lines which finally lose themselves in the upper left corner in a system of calmly suspended circles.

Feininger, finally, transforms the image with soft irony into one of his characteristic marine scenes. He replaces the city dynamics with an idyllic moonlight coastal landscape. The windowsill has turned into water between towering cliffs, the street sign is now a moon crescent, the transmitter has mutated in to a little steamboat, and the sound projector is a huge cloud of steam.

Only Georg Muche hints at the confrontation of the apparatus with the listening crowd, thereby touching on the exploitation of the new wireless as mass-media for politics. Countless black and colored circles fill up the window opening and develop a disturbing energy which seems to surge forward and make everything else recoil from it (Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, 2009).

2. The lattice chair by Marcel Breuer

The Lattice chair by Marcel Breuer

3. The Light-Space modulator by Moholy-Nagy

4. Typography at the Bauhaus

 

5. Architecture by Walter Gropius

Architecture by Walter Gropius

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