...8, Holon, 5845400 on Thursday December 12th and runs until Saturday May 9th "Ruth Adler Schnee: Modern Designs for Living" at Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA There can be few designers who better underscore the connections between inter-War European Modernism and post-War American Modernism, or the connections between an institution such as Bauhaus and one such as Cranbrook Academy of Art, than Ruth Adler Schnee... Born in Frankfurt in 1923 and raised in Düsseldorf, until 1938 when the family were forced to flee to America, Ruth Adler's mother, Marie Salomon, was not only a student of calligraphy and bookbinding at Bauhaus Weimar, a period of studies that also saw Paul Klee become a firm family friend and subsequently influence on young Ruth, just one of many inter-War avant-garde influences on young Ruth, but Marie Salomon also studied art under Hans Hofmann, who, and after his own emigration to America, would become not only an important protagonist in the development of abstract impressionism, but an important teacher in the development of Ray Kaiser, the future Ray Eames...
Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau
From 1919 to 1925 Bauhaus was based in Weimar where it emerged from the merger of the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunsthochschule and the Kunstgewerbeschule. Walter Gropius, the initiator and director, established Bauhaus with the intention of creating an institution which would marry art with industry, trade and crafts. In context of the practical training the Bauhaus workshops played a central role and existed as an equal party to the theoretical studies. Despite Gropius's aims Bauhaus didn't start cooperating with industry until 1922, and in 1923 an exhibition under title "Art and technology - A new unit" was staged, in which the Bauhaus furniture, lamps and accessories interspersed easily and openly into the rooms. The resonance of the exhibition was such that it established the international reputation of Bauhaus furniture, buildings and art: a reputation which remains undiminished to this day. In 1925 the right-wing conservative regional government forced the closure of Bauhaus Weimar, leading to the subsequent move to Dessau. In the course of the following seven years the most famous Bauhaus furniture was developed in cooperation with local industrial companies such as Junkers aircraft factory, Waggonfabrik AG and Berlin-Anhaltische Maschinenbau AG. In 1932 more political interference saw Bauhaus relocated to Berlin, before in 1933 it closed its doors for ever.
The credo "beauty should be combined with usefulness" became popular during the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, and a century later the idea that art, crafts and industry should be united was firmly established. One of the leading protagonists being the German architect Gottfried Semper who after visiting the London World Exposition in 1851 wrote that the connection between art and industry can best be established through teaching: a position most popularly realised through the Bauhaus. In terms of objects one of the most important of the period was Chair No. 14 by Michael Thonet, released in 1859 the chair with its reduction, functionality and innovative use of material made it very popular with the coming generation of architects and designers and in many respects served as a model for Bauhaus furniture. The start of the 20th century saw the crystallisation of many of these ideas in the formation of the Deutsche Werkbund - German Federation of Architects and Designers - an organisation to which Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius also belonged.
The technical context
During the Bauhaus a number of technical "miracles" appeared which radically altered the everyday social, economic and political realities: express trains, aeroplanes, affordable cars, street lighting, electrical lighting and telephones in the home and all manner of new household machines and appliances. These technical innovations allowed the establishment of an industrial culture, including the mass, series production of furniture, while the new means of communication and the new mobility promoted an unprecedented international dialogue amongst furniture designers.
The origins of Bauhaus furniture
The Dutch architect and furniture designer Mart Stam designed the first cantilevered steel tube chair in 1926, taking up from where the De Stijl movement had begun with steel tube furniture. At Bauhaus, artists, sculptors, architects, designers and craftsmen were able to work together in an unprecedented way, thus further developing the Bauhaus style in various directions. The designs of the Bauhaus design furniture were intended to meet the dual demands functionality as well as those of advanced industrial series production. The Bauhaus theory saw the arts and the architecture as inseparable, and this is reflected in the Bauhaus furniture design classics. Among the most fastidious Bauhaus protagonists was the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Among Mies van der Rohe's most famous furniture design classics is the Barcelona Chair and stool, which he designed for the German pavilion on the occasion of the 1929 World Exposition in Barcelona. The steel frame and the leather-covered and button-seated seat and back cushions characterize this chair as uncompromising, aristocratic and elegant.
Bauhaus furniture from Marcel Breuer
The furniture designer Marcel Breuer began his studies at Bauhaus in 1920 and acquired his Master title at the time of Bauhaus's move from Weimar to Dessau in 1925. From the very beginning Breuer was regarded as a pioneer in the innovative use of materials, for all wood and metal. In his text "Metal Furniture and Modern Spatiality" Breuer described the aim with his Bauhaus furniture as being to create objects which stand in space in such a way that they interfere with neither movement nor the view through the room. The famous Laccio Bauhaus tables, designed by Marcel Breuer around 1925, consist of a combination of chrome plated steel tubes and wooden surfaces, and today Knoll International still produce the Laccio Table. The Wassily steel tube armchair was also designed in 1925 and was designed for the Dessau studio apartment of his colleague Wassily Kandinsky, from whom the name for the Bauhaus classic was also derived. In 1928 Breuer added a steel tube chair following the typical Bauhaus design to his portfolio.
Style elements in Bauhaus furniture
The Bauhaus furniture designers refrained from using unnecessary decorations and colour, and instead used simple but strikingly chrome plated surfaces complemented by the regular use of black. Steel tubes offering as it does numerous benefits, such as high load bearing capacity, low raw material costs, low weight and good formability, greatly contributed to the resulting exceptional design and ease of transportability. The plywood used for Bauhaus tables and chairs consisted of several thin wood layers glued together, which ensured an ease of moulding. However, the typical curved shapes were also created because the welding work could thus be minimized. The use of glass in table tops formed a direct link to the architecture of the time, which focused on the use of glass and steel in the construction of new buildings. Reduction in Bauhaus design is particularly present in the case of the cantilever chairs, where the traditional 4 leg frame was dispensed with. The combination of tubular steel with a wicker mesh makes Thonet furniture the very epitome of Bauhaus furniture design.
100 Years of Bauhaus
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, numerous theme-specific exhibitions and celebrations will take place in 2019. As part of the "100 Years of Bauhaus" anniversary programme and under the motto "Thinking the World anew", Bauhaus Verbund, together with regional and international partners, is inviting visitors to discover the extensive history of the art school, which still has an impact on living and coexistence in society today.
More about 'Bauhaus' in our blog
...The (hi)story of Gotha and inter-War Modernism begins, more or less, in the 20th century and the investiture of Walter the Gropius as Director of the Staatliche Bauhaus in nearby Weimar, an institution which, as Inspired by Bauhaus explores, allowed Gotha to experience Modernism not only via a range of expressions, but also across the varied recent history of the city and region... A variety and range which allows the KunstForum to present an exhibition composed of three showcases, each given their own floor and starting, at least if like us you begin on the top floor, post-Bauhaus, post-War, in East Germany...
...Completing the Werkbundarchiv - Museum der Dinge's trio of exhibitions exploring developments in design understanding(s), the development of design vocabularies, in the early decades of the 20th century through the twin perspectives of the Deutsche Werkbund and Bauhaus: an, if you will, exhibition triangle as opposed to cycle, that began with Commercial Design instead of Applied Art?... also features works by three named designers: Martha Katzer, who in the inter-War years was particularly associated with the Majolika ceramic works in Karlsruhe and where she is popularly credited with introducing and advancing spray decoration; Artur Hennig who aside from his own work is also presented through his teaching at the State Ceramics College Bunzlau and mention of the developments of the spray decoration process and spray pistol aesthetics he and his students developed; and Margarete Heymann through examples of her work for her Haël-Werkstätten für Künstlerische Keramik in Marwitz, work which reminds of the exhibition Bauhaus in Brandenburg at the Dieselkraftwerk Cottbus, which in addition to objects by Margarete Heymann also features brightly coloured, hand-painted, works by Werner Burri and Theodor Bogler for the Steingutfabriken Velten-Vordamm...
...As this Bauhaus Weimar centenary year is making ever clearer, whereas Bauhaus may have been physically sited in Weimar, Dessau and (nominally) Berlin, approaching a better understanding of "Bauhaus" involves leaving those sites and following the many paths that either led to, or from, those sites... Paths that not only allow one to approach a better understanding of "Bauhaus", but for all to approach a better understanding of the wider developments of the inter-War years, of inter-War Modernism, and thus to better understand that Bauhaus was but a component of that period, but a component of inter-War Modernism...
...And on the other hand, tends to imply we all need to consider the, apparently contradictory, question, of in how far the rise of modernist, avant-garde inclined movements contributed to the rise of the NSDAP, in how far the rise in support for the NSDAP in the 1920s was a reaction to institutions such as Bauhaus, in how far a fear of a changing world, a fear of the Utopian visions, social emancipation and technological progress promoted and propagated by the various 1920s avant-garde movements was seized, and abused and misused, by the NSDAP to establish a power base... And now is an opportune moment, the broad scope of exhibitions staged in context of the Bauhaus Weimar centenary celebrations have, we'd argue, helped expand the discussion on Bauhaus, have undertaking a little myth busting, and thus means we can collectively move on to develop more realistic, more probable, understandings of the role of early 20th century architects and designers in shaping our world...
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