Art History Lab

The Revolutionary History of Bauhaus Art and Design

The fascinating history of Bauhaus art and design spans multiple decades, beginning with the Vienna Secession and Jugendstil movements in the late 19th century. This innovative style was characterized by a rejection of traditional, ornamental design in favor of functional, minimalistic forms.

In this article, we will delve into the history of Bauhaus art and design, examining how it came about and how its influence continued long after the school’s closure.

History of Bauhaus Art

The roots of Bauhaus art can be traced back to the Vienna Secession movement, which rejected traditional art styles in favor of innovative, modernist designs. This movement, led by artists such as Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser, sought to incorporate innovative techniques and materials, such as metal and glass, into everyday objects.

In Germany, the Arts and Crafts movement provided a similar backdrop for the development of Bauhaus design. This movement, which began in the late 19th century, focused on the idea that art and craft should be reunited and that well-designed, handcrafted items should be accessible to everyone.

The Bauhaus School was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, as a merger of two schools: the Weimar Academy of Fine Arts and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts. Gropius hoped to create a new type of school that would break down the barriers between artist and craftsman, and that would produce graduates who could design everything from buildings to furniture to typography.

Formation of Bauhaus

Walter Gropius’s vision for the Bauhaus School was revolutionary. He believed that art and design should be integrated into everyday life and that artists and craftsmen should work together to create high-quality, functional objects.

This was a significant departure from the traditional art school model, which focused primarily on fine arts and relegated crafts to a lesser status. Gropius was intentional about the school’s location in Weimar, which had a rich history in the arts.

The town was home to the Weimar Classicism movement, which included the likes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. Gropius saw the Bauhaus School as a continuation of this cultural tradition.

Bauhaus Styles and Concepts

The Bauhaus School was unique in its teaching approach, emphasizing practical skills rather than pure artistic expression. The curriculum was built around the idea of learning by doing, with students starting by working with basic materials and gradually progressing to more complex projects.

One of the most influential figures at the Bauhaus School was Johannes Itten, who developed the school’s preliminary course curriculum. This course emphasized understanding and mastering the elements of design, such as color, shape, and texture.

Itten also stressed the importance of craftsmanship and technical skills. Another essential concept at the Bauhaus School was the use of geometric shapes and forms.

These forms were seen as functional and simple, as opposed to the ornamental designs of previous eras. The use of primary colors, as well as black and white, was also common in Bauhaus design.

Faculty of the Bauhaus

The faculty at the Bauhaus School was made up of some of the most innovative artists and designers of the time. Johannes Itten, as previously mentioned, was one of the most influential figures at the school.

He was the first to teach the preliminary course, which focused on color, shape, and texture. Lyonel Feininger was another important figure at the Bauhaus School.

He was a painter and graphic artist who taught courses in typography and advertising design. Gerhard Marcks was a sculptor who taught courses in ceramics and metalworking.

Lszl Moholy-Nagy was a photographer who taught courses in photography and theater. Perhaps the most famous artist associated with the Bauhaus School was Paul Klee.

Klee taught several courses, including painting, drawing, and color theory. His approach to color was characterized by the use of bright, bold shades and juxtapositions of color that created visual interest and depth.

Wassily Kandinsky was another important figure at the Bauhaus School. Kandinsky was a painter who taught courses in painting and drawing.

His work was characterized by the use of abstract shapes and colors to evoke emotions and convey spiritual messages.


The Bauhaus School was a pivotal moment in the history of art and design, which revolutionized the way that we think about functional objects and the role of artists in society. The innovative principles of the Bauhaus School continue to inspire artists and designers today, long after the school closed its doors.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they saw the Bauhaus School as a threat to their traditional values and shut it down. This forced many of the teachers and students to flee the country, with a significant number relocating to the United States.

Despite the closure of the school, the impact and influence of the Bauhaus Movement continued to be felt for decades to come. After the closure of the Bauhaus School in Berlin, many of the teachers and students dispersed around the world.

One of the most significant destinations for Bauhaus exiles was the United States. Prominent Bauhaus figures such as Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Marcel Breuer were among the German migrs who found work in the US, where they taught and designed buildings, furniture, and other objects in the Bauhaus style.

The influence of these Bauhaus exiles can be seen in many iconic American designs. For example, Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel furniture designs, inspired by the Bauhaus principles of simplicity and functionality, became hugely popular in the US during the mid-20th century.

Furthermore, the influence of the Bauhaus movement is not limited to design and architecture. Its impact can be seen in a range of genres, including typography, graphic design, and fine art.

The emphasis on functional design and the use of primary colors, geometric shapes, and bold typography have become hallmarks of modern graphic design. After World War II, a new generation of designers and educators sought to revive Bauhaus principles and continue the legacy of the movement.

One notable example was the establishment in 1953 of the Hochschule fr Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany. This school, led by Swiss artist Max Bill, sought to revive the Bauhaus tradition by teaching concrete art and emphasizing the relationship between art and technology.

The Hochschule fr Gestaltung in Ulm was characterized by a rigorous curriculum that emphasized both theoretical rigor and a hands-on approach to design. This approach was influenced by Bauhaus teachings, particularly the emphasis on practical skills and the importance of learning by doing.

The concrete art movement, which emerged at the Hochschule fr Gestaltung in Ulm, was also heavily influenced by Bauhaus principles. Concrete art rejected the use of representational images in favor of abstract shapes and color blocks.

This approach was in keeping with the Bauhaus emphasis on non-representational design and the use of simple, geometric forms. Overall, the legacy of the Bauhaus Movement is significant and far-reaching.

The principles of simplicity, functionality, and the importance of craftsmanship and technical skills continue to inspire designers and artists around the world. As we move further into the digital age, the legacy of the Bauhaus Movement remains relevant, providing a blueprint for designers and artists seeking to balance aesthetics with functionality.

The Bauhaus Movement was a turning point in the history of design, art, and architecture. The Bauhaus School was founded on the principles of reconciling fine art and utilitarian design, emphasizing the importance of craftsmanship and technical skills.

With an innovative approach that incorporated both scientific and creative thinking, the Bauhaus artists sought to create works that were not only visually stunning but also functional and practical for everyday use.

Key Ideas of Bauhaus Design

One of the key ideas of Bauhaus design was the combination of art and craft. In the traditional model of art education, there was a separation between fine art and utilitarian design.

The Bauhaus Movement sought to break down these barriers, teaching artists to create works that could be both beautifully crafted and useful in everyday life. Another essential aspect of Bauhaus design was the emphasis on craftsmanship.

This was reflected in the materials that the school used, which were often simple and affordable, such as metal, glass, and concrete. The Bauhaus artists believed that well-crafted objects should be accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy.

Finally, the Bauhaus Movement was characterized by a scientific approach to design. Bauhaus artists saw themselves not just as artists or craftspeople but also as problem-solvers.

They approached design as a process of experimentation, using math and science to create works that were not only visually appealing but also practical and efficient.

Important Bauhaus Artists and Artworks

One of the most important figures in the early days of the Bauhaus Movement was Paul Klee. Klee was a Swiss painter and printmaker who taught at the Bauhaus School from 1921 until he left Germany in 1933.

His paintings were characterized by an inventive approach to color, form, and composition, creating works that were both playful and profound. One of his most famous works, Red Balloon, exemplifies his use of color and form to create a sense of whimsy and lightness.

Wassily Kandinsky was another important Bauhaus artist. A Russian painter and theorist, he developed the concept of non-objective art, in which art does not represent objects in the real world but instead serves as a means to express spiritual ideas and emotions.

His use of bold primary colors and geometric shapes can be seen in his masterpiece, Yellow-Red-Blue. Overall, the Bauhaus Movement was defined by its innovative approach to design, incorporating both fine art and utilitarian principles into the creation of beautifully crafted and functional objects.

The legacy of the movement continues to inspire designers and artists around the world today, providing a blueprint for how to approach design as a process of experimentation and problem-solving. With its focus on craftsmanship, accessibility, and beauty, the Bauhaus Movement remains a beacon of innovation and creativity in the world of art and design.

The Bauhaus Movement revolutionized art, design, and architecture by merging fine art with utilitarian design. The key ideas of Bauhaus design included the reconciliation of art and craft, a focus on craftsmanship, and a scientific approach to problem-solving.

Artists such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky created iconic works that exemplified the principles of the movement. The legacy of the Bauhaus Movement continues to inspire designers and artists today, emphasizing the importance of accessible, functional, and visually stunning creations.

The Bauhaus Movement serves as a reminder that art and design can coexist harmoniously, offering a blueprint for innovative and practical approaches to creativity.

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