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Bauhaus Movement

We still live inside the Bauhaus.  Suppressed by Hitler in 1933, the Bauhaus school of painting, graphic design, and architecture has had a lasting influence.  It is visible everywhere in modern America.  The most utilitarian products, such as office furniture, consumer products, office buildings, still display this influence.  This represents an enormous success because, as Werckmeister notes, Bauhaus was an “ambitious program. . . aimed at freeing modern art from its isolation as an exhibition commodity and integrating it with the technology and lifestyle of society as a whole”. Bauhaus stands as an example of an artistic movement with a definite aim that was spectacularly accomplished.  It stands in stark contrast to other twentieth century artistic movements, such as Die Brucke, which had less well-defined, more romantic, aims and which produced some great and influential art but which never left the world of exhibition halls and never attained the enormous influence on the culture as a whole that came to be enjoyed by  Bauhaus.  Indeed, it is entirely appropriate to see in Bauhaus one of the most successful artistic movements in the entire history of art.

Bauhaus Movement

Stokstad gives a brief history of the movement.  It was founded by Walter Gropius who, in 1919, convinced the municipal authorities of Weimar, Germany to combine the city’s schools of arts and crafts; it thereafter moved to Dessau, and then to Berlin.  In 1933 it was suppressed by Hitler (1081).  The aim of the Bauhaus movement, its central tenant, was a philosophy of design that emphasized simplicity and the presentation of the object as an article whose structural logic should be readily apparent to the observer.  It is, in a sense, the very opposite of Rococo.  The aim is clean lines and lack of superfluous ornament.  The aim is also lack of pretension; Gropius employed such artistic luminaries as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky as members of his faculty, but he also employed, in the same capacity, obscure but capable crafts persons.

It is hardly to be wondered at that this form of art would catch on in America.  This is, after all, a society with has a Puritan past and the lean, austere creations of the Bauhaus, not unlike the lean, austere creations of the Shakers, are a natural match for both this Puritan spirit and the American love of the plainly functional.  It is impossible for those who retain their sense of sight to walk around in any American city or town and not be confronted by the Bauhaus influence.  It is everywhere in contemporary architecture, particularly office buildings.  It is also inside those office buildings.

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