The Bauhaus Revisited
In 1919 architect Walter Gropius was made head of both an arts and crafts school and an art academy in Weimar, Germany, the seat of the newly formed German Republic. Gropius combined the schools into what is commonly known as the Bauhaus, or House of Building. Students from other arts and crafts or art academies applied with the hope of gaining a paying profession. Faculty flocked to the school looking to transform society. The relative poverty of the new school meant students were encouraged to produce objects that could be sold. Timeless objects and buildings resulted from its 14 year existence and many of the students and faculty would have successful careers during and after their Bauhaus years. Luminaries such as Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Josef and Anni Albers, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would bring their considerable talent to the United States after the National Socialists or Nazis in Germany began declaring modernist Bauhaus works degenerate.
The booklist below contains selections about the people involved with the Bauhaus during its brief history and other selections inspired by Bauhaus principles.
Learn, create and collaborate, Bauhaus style, with a series of library programs.
Gropius: The Man Who Built the Bauhaus by Fiona MacCarthy
The man behind the MetLife (formerly the Pan Am) Building in Manhattan, began life in Berlin, Germany in 1883. As a young architect and soldier, Walter Gropius became a proponent of modernism, a movement that eschewed excessive ornamentation and strove for beautifully-made, easy to live with buildings, art and everyday objects. Drawing on letters, memoirs, and, mostly notably, the diaries of Ise Frank, Walter Gropius’s second wife, Gropius chronicles not only the career and life of the Bauhaus founder, but those of the students and faculty whose talent he nurtured. A copious work of almost 500 pages, Gropius sheds light on a socially and politically murky era in which students and faculty alike strove to make the world a better place through innovative design.
Bauhaus Women by Ulrike Muller
Metalwork artist Marianne Brandt, weavers Anni Albers and Otti Berger and Mies van der Rohe design partner Lilly Reich are among the twenty women written about in this well researched entry. In the summer of 1919 women seeking artistic freedom and an opportunity to train in a viable career joined the Bauhaus in numbers exceeding those of male students. Often discouraged from joining workshops outside of weaving, female students broke through barriers to produce prototypes and saleable products that kept the school running. Images of their wall hangings, stagecraft, art, furniture, toys and more accompany each brief biography. These works can be found in museum collections worldwide, including here in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Josef Albers: A Retrospective
In 1920 Josef Albers became a student at the Bauhaus. Thirty years before beginning his “Homage to the Square” series, Josef Albers was a thirty-two year old school teacher and art instructor about to devote three years to independent study in glass, plastics and wood. Now working almost exclusively in the abstract, his characteristic geometric style began to emerge. 281 illustrations, including the artist’s photographs of his fellow Bauhauslers give a visual account of Albers’ Bauhaus years. Essays by four experts describe Albers development as an artist. A concise chronology rounds things off.
An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers by Natasha Wing; illustrated by Julia Breckenreid
As a child growing up in Orange, Connecticut, the author of An Eye for Color had a kindly neighbor whom her mother said was an artist. The Christmas card with red squares from Mr. Albers did not impress the young Natasha, but as she grew as an artist, she could better understand his experiments in color. Julia Breckenreid captures Albers style in outline and rich color. Natasha Wing distills the evolution of Josef Albers art into an easy to understand narrative. The result of both Breckenreid and Wing’s talents is a nod to modernism itself.
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Mary Grandpre
In a work of fiction with plenty of factual tidbits, Rosenstock concentrates on Russian born Kandinsky’s synesthesia, a group of conditions where one sense triggers an experience that involves another sense or senses. Kandinsky heard sound when he saw colors and saw colors move when he heard sound. He pursued the study of art at thirty, looking for ways to express what he saw and heard. In 1910, at nearly forty-four Kandinsky was credited with developing abstract art. At fifty-five, the now renowned painter was appointed master of painting at the Bauhaus. The insightful read ends with Kandinsky’s more famous works. One painting from the Bauhaus period, White Zig Zag, shows how his work became more linear, geometric and precise.
Dreaming Pictures: Paul Klee
A violinist, poet and diarist, Paul Klee was a member of Kandinsky’s famed Die Blaue Reiter or Blue Rider group of artists in Munich, Germany and an accomplished Expressionist painter before joining the famous Bauhaus in 1921, a year before Kandinsky. Like Kandinsky, Klee explored and experimented with his art and Dreaming Pictures shows varying styles, all uniquely Klee. Poet Jurgen von Schemm’s nuanced commentary is provided below floating quotes by German fourth graders on the page opposite each painting, inviting the viewer to contribute their own narrative.
Paul Klee: Artists in Their Time by Jill A. Laidlaw
More informational than the interactive Dreaming Pictures, Paul Klee: Artists in Their Time provides context to Klee’s development as an artist. Klee’s poems and photographs along with period photographs, Klee’s etchings and paintings and those of his contemporaries, a timeline and brief articles on the various movements of his time, including one on the Bauhaus combine for a readable overview of Klee’s life and times. Explanatory notes below Klee’s works and a glossary augment an accessible introduction to influential and much enjoyed artist.
Art Lab for Kids by Susan Schwake; photography by Rainer Schwake
In his youth, Paul Klee would trace the images he saw in the marble tabletops in his uncle Ernst’s restaurant. Kandinsky’s aunt Elizabeth gifted him the much mentioned paint box from which his youthful adventures in color and sound began. Susan Schwake channels 20 years of experience teaching art to children for her 52 project primer sure to inspire many. Each lesson buildings on the lesson before, but is designed for the budding artist of any age to begin with the project that tempts them most. Lessons in drawing, painting, printmaking and collage are broken down into labs. Each lab has an art example by a contemporary artist along with their story and where to find more of their art. Step by step instructions are illustrated with photos of children executing the lab. To keep the projects unique and expressive, queues for experimenting are also provided. Bauhauslers would be proud.
Try these memorable picture books for more creative inspiration:
The Dot written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
At the end of art class, Vashti’s paper is still blank. Her teacher asks her to make a mark and see what develops. The one dot she provides for assignment gives Vashti confidence. What follows is a journey so profound it has its own day. Celebrate September 15, Dot Day, by making art in a personal and unique way.
What Do You Do with An Idea? written and illustrated by Kobi Yamada
In this cleverly illustrated fable a walking golden egg stands in for the idea that never seems to go away. The egg follows its creator until it is acknowledged and nurtured. The creator finds the idea provides joy and purpose, so the creator carries the egg along. The idea reaches maturity and becomes a gift that can transform the world.
Not a Stick written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
Sometimes one sees what others do not. In the case of Not a Stick, the viewer is in need of an imagination. The piglet in each spare image is never holding a plain stick. Could you see what the piglet saw before turning the page?
City Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier
A pigeon soars over the cityscape while a child journeys under and through it on a day full of shapes. Triangles, rectangles, squares and circles form light and shadow, varied architecture, colorful vehicles, crowded subway trains, tiny sailboats in the park and bubbles wafting through the air. Bryan Collier’s expert collage invites quiet study as hidden shapes come slowly into view.