The term Bauhaus has become synonymous with Modernist, progressive Art. Originally based in Weimar Germany, born out of political strife and upheaval, the Bauhaus was fundamentally an art school whose style has become one of the most influential in modernist architecture and design.
The Bauhaus directly translates as “house of construction” and was founded by Walter Gropius, a German Architect, & operated during the period 1919-1933.
The name indicates the style & attitudes adopted by the group of artists who founded this movement. The distinction between form & function was abandoned – instead rational, simplified & geometric forms prevailed. There was also an absence of adornment, works were devoid of all emotions & artists rather sought a harmonious unification of intellectual, practical & aesthetic concerns.
During its short but momentous lifespan, the Bauhaus operated in 3 separate cities in Germany, notably Weimar (1919-1925), Dessau (1925-1932) & Berlin (1932-33). The underlying belief of the movement was that art should benefit society. It should not be elitist & egotistical. Rather it should benefit & be accessible to the masses. These avant-garde ideas & philosophy would become the cornerstone of all the pieces produced from this school of thought.
Despite not a key focus of the Bauhaus movement originally, in hindsight furniture design now seems like the logical continuation of the movement. Strong, durable & highly functional pieces were created by a number of pioneering Bauhaus artists & designers.
Mies van der Rohe was one of the driving forces behind the movement. The term, ‘less is more,’ is characteristic of his work. Extreme clarity and simplicity penetrate his designs whilst beauty is fused with usability. His most famous pieces were from the Barcelona collection which featured furniture made from stainless steel & chrome frames with leather panels. These pieces have simple forms – straight, smooth edges, clean lines & were made with a meticulous attention to detail.
Marcel Breuer was another innovative figure of the Bauhaus movement. He both studied and taught at the school. His Wassily Chair, designed in 1925 has become iconic as it was the first piece of furniture which used tubular steel, bent and manipulated into different shapes.
This approach became Breuer’s signature style. The industrial materials combined with the radical design and form demonstrates the pioneering & modern approach of the Bauhaus movement & its response to the needs of the industrialising world.
Furniture with this machine-like feel was a style which was emulated by Le Corbusier. Principally an architect, Le Corbusier was also a designer & frequently worked with steel & reinforced concrete as well as clear structures & simple geometric forms. Although this chair was designed in 1983, some time after the Bauhaus school closed, the principles which underpin this design are demonstrative of the infinite dynamism of the movement as they were just as powerful then as they were 50 years on in 1983.
The Grande Armchair is part of a collection & similarly to Breuer features a chrome tubular steel frame with luxurious black leather cushions. This piece was extremely pioneering when produced & has remained an iconic feat of sound engineering & strong aesthetics.
The Bauhaus movement significantly penetrated many of the visual arts & has continued to have an effect into the present day. With so many of us working in offices today, Bauhaus furniture has withstood the test of time due to its highly functional design which promotes comfortable living whilst also being visually appealing. It has had an unrivalled legacy & continues to inspire many artists & designers today.