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Folk Art

Bauhaus’ Adventure

“The organism of a house evolves from the course of events that have predated it in a house, it is the functions of living, sleeping, bathing, cooking, eating that inevitably give the whole design of the house its design is not there for its own sake, it arises alone from the nature of the building, from the function it should fulfil…architecture has not exhausted its raison d’etre, unless we consider our emotional needs for harmonious space, for melodious sounds and for room to move, that first bring the space to life, as the purpose of reaching a higher order”. Walter Gropius, in 1930
In German, the word Bauhaus means literally, “building houses”. But, beyond words, the concept refers to a whole new conception of arts and life. Part of their basic training, the artists were encouraged to go out of their narrow expertise – not only painting, designing, sculpture – and to embrace the area of creative experiences. The ain was to offer them a wider base for improving their knowledge.
The idea of this article started relatively spontaneously. While being in Germany in 2009, I took various opportunities for understanding more about this movement, which I knew but only at a very superficial level. I was familiar with many of the works and projects, but was fully unaware of the philosophical background of the entire movement. Since, I was fascinated not only by the diversity of the artworks belonging to the Bauhaus movement and the current influences, but also by the holistic conception corresponding at a great extent to the needs of the world we are living today.
The origins
Kunstgewerbschule was founded in Weimar by Henry van de Velde in 1908. In 1919, he was succeeded at the head of this institution by Walter Gropius, who had closed relationships with Weimar’s other school, theHochschule fuer Bildende Kunst. Three years before he recommended and the local authorities agreed, the merging of the merging of the Kunstgewebeschule and the Hochschule fr Bildende Kunst into a single interdisciplinary school of craft and design.
While he fought on the front of the WWI, Gropius wrote “Proposals for the establishment of an educational institution to offer artistic advisory services to industry, trade and craft”. The manifesto of the Movement was released in 1919 – as a couple of paragraphs expressing the main idea of the founder in a very concise form -, and illustrated by a woodcut – The Cathedral of the Future, an industrial utopia using the religious symbol as a pretext for inclusiveness and holistic perspective – by Lyonel Feininger.
Once confirmed as the leader of Bauhaus, he followed his principles and succeeded in bringing in Weimar various outstanding artistic names of the day: Lyonel Feininger, Gerhard Marcks, Johannes Itten, Georg Muche, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky. The expressionists were joined by De Stijl representatives. In 1923, one of the most representative figures of the movement, Theo van Doesburg, delivered some lectures for the students of Bauhaus. Another influence is from the part of the Russian Constructivism.
Even Gropius was an architect by formation, a department of architecture was absent in the first years of life ofBauhau’s school. Ironically enough, in many cases the movement is identified more by the influence in the area of city planning and manners of building, than in the area of design and visual arts, in general.
The context when the Bauhaus was born is extremely interesting – a tumultuous period, both in international and home politics – the end of the WWI, the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the boiling socialist-anarchist movements in Germany, among which the Spartakus Bund lead by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg – asin the area of arts, where Dadaism and Blaue Reiter and Fauvism and De Stijl were only ones of the most important new categories of artistic expression. Despite obvious political orientations – on the left – of some of the members of the school’s board, Gropius outlined and tried to maintain his own life a self assumed political neutrality. In the same time, he was a strong believer in the need for a new society, in his aesthetical vision projected as a total environment where all the manifestations of arts were connected and interdependent in a better world for the humans. A vision transmitted for decades and resurged in our 21st century.
Back to the origins
His vision about the mission of arts is outlined in the manifesto published in 1919, in his first year of directorship. The starting point of his approach was the reform of education, as a first step in creating a unitary framework covering the entire spectrum of artistic activities. The system was organised on the basis of a master-apprentice relationship, mirroring the Renaissance and concepts of education, turning around the idea of …