Post World War I Germany set the stage for the most organized art movement in art history. The Bauhaus movement was a reaction to the social changes the Germans were facing. The country had been crushed in the war. Their economy was collapsing. Mobs of unemployed people roamed the street waiting for the country to collapse. The Germans were living in poverty and starving from the lack of supplies (Jackson). “This may seem to be an unlikely environment to support an artistic revolution. Never-the-less, for the designers of the Bauhaus, this was the beginning of a rewarding struggle” (qtd. Brodie).
In 1919 an institution called the Bauhaus was formed in Weimer. Walter Gropius was appointed as the head of the school. He had three goals that he wanted his students to achieve. Artist and craftsmen were accepted into the program in an effort to get them to work collectively to combine all of their skills. Secondly, the students were to design everyday objects as works of art. This would advance modern art into the sense of functional design. The third goal was to maintain contact with the leaders of industry so the students could be their consultants.
Ilkka Huovio stated in Bauhaus, The New Man – The New Technique that “The idealistic basis of Bauhaus was a socially orientate programme. An artist must be conscious of his social responsibility to the community. On the other hand the community has to accept the artist and support him” The movement achieved their believed responsibility to the community of Weimer, in 1924 ,with their mass housing program. There was a great shortage of housing for the working class in Weimer so the designers and architects created affordable and modern housing. The buildings were built from tax money for the workers. Although the workers disliked the new classical form social housing that the Bauhaus had designed. (Jackson).
This set the school up for failure in the community. The Weimer community also thought the students were extremely radical in their appearance and behavior. The fact that women were aloud in the school and the classes were not segregated was a very modern step for the school. This influenced the women to wear their hair short and dress modern. They were being viewed as being too radical for Weiner. They were becoming more and more isolated from the community. (Boedie). In April 1925, the Thuringer government withdrew its economic support for the institute because of the political pressure that was rising in the community (Jackson).
The progressive industrial city of Dessau became the new home for the Bauhaus. For funds they created the Bauhaus GmbH to market their designs and products. They also held workshop for craftsmen to learn their techniques. Breaking away from the government funding and control gave full independence to the group. Gropius turned the Bauhaus leadership over to a Swiss architect named Hannes Meyer in 1928 (Wu.)
In 1932 the National Socialist Party was in control of Dessau. They claimed that the Bauhaus was “manifestation of Jewish-Marxist propaganda.” The school was closed and the building was destroyed. The school was then moved to Berlin but was only opened for a year until the Nazis raided the school searching the communist documents. Several students were arrested for not having proper identification papers. The school was closed for the final time in Germany (Brodie).
Many of the Bauhaus artist migrated to the United States to flee the Nazi suppression. Gropius was made the Dean of the School of Architecture at Harvard. This gave the American architects a new era in modern architecture. The Bauhaus lend us their ideas of social housing for the low income. This proved to be very helpful to communities until the end of the World War II. With the raise of our economic structure the workers started leaving the cities and their high rise buildings to live in suburbs.
The end of this project happened in St. Louis in 1972 when a multimillion dollar experiment failed. Minoru Yamaski designed the Pruitt-Igoe Project in 1955 for the low income families of St. Louis. The buildings were a classical Bauhaus style. With steel, glass, and concrete construction with open lawns. The building was eventually demolished with dynamite (Jackson).
In 1986 an initiative was taken to create an new independent Bauhaus in Dessau. The New Bauhaus is approaching the art in an ecological philosophy. The area around Dessau has been devastated with environmental problems from the industry. The school is looking for new solutions to deal with these problems and redevelop the housing in the decaying city (Huovio).
Although this period of art was short lived, because of the political turmoil of Europe, new media and technologies emerged from the Bauhaus that changed advanced art. The most lasting influence is in applied design in industry. “Everyone sitting on a chair with a tubular steel frame, using an adjustable reading lamp, or living in a house partly or entirely constructed from prefabricated elements is benefiting from a revolution in design largely brought about by the Bauhaus”.
- Brodie, Laura. “Women of the Bauhaus.” Women in the Visual Arts Web Site. 20 Feb. 1999 (http://www.coa.edu/HEJourney.courseprojects/women)
- Huovio, Ilkka. “Bauhaus, The New Man – The New Technique.” 20 Feb. 1999 (http://www.ulah.fi/presentation/history/ebauba.htm)
- Jackson, John. “The Bauhaus.” 8 March, 1999. (http://www.johnco.cc.ks.us/jjackson/bauhaus.html)