The Bauhaus School: Principles, Aesthetics and Legacy

May 10, 2023

The Bauhaus Art School, founded in Weimar, Germany, in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, was a groundbreaking institution that brought about a radical shift in art, design, and architecture. With its innovative educational principles and unique aesthetic, the Bauhaus movement has had a profound and lasting impact on the world of modern abstract art. This article delves into the core principles, visual style, and influential teachers of the Bauhaus Art School, as well as its enduring influence on the art world.

At its core, the Bauhaus school sought to redefine the relationship between art and industry. Gropius envisioned a "new guild of craftsmen," a place where artists, designers, and craftsmen could come together to create functional and aesthetically pleasing objects that served the needs of modern society. This revolutionary approach to art education was rooted in the belief that artistic expression should be integrated with functional design and industrial production.

To achieve this synthesis, the Bauhaus curriculum incorporated a unique blend of traditional artistic disciplines and modern technologies. Students were encouraged to explore various media and techniques, from painting and sculpture to typography and metalwork, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of art and design principles.

The curriculum at the Bauhaus was divided into three stages: the preliminary course (Vorkurs), the specialised workshops (Werkstätten), and the final synthesis (Formunterricht). The preliminary course, taught by artists such as Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, emphasised experimentation with colour, form, and materials, laying the groundwork for the students' future studies.

The specialised workshops, led by masters of various crafts, allowed students to delve deeper into their chosen disciplines. The workshops included metalworking, woodworking, ceramics, textile design, graphic design, and many more. The final synthesis aimed to unify the skills acquired in the previous stages, fostering the creation of well-rounded, interdisciplinary artists capable of shaping the future of art and design.

Works by Josef Albers, a tutor at the Bauhaus school - see more here.

The Bauhaus aesthetic was characterised by a focus on functionality, simplicity, and the use of modern materials. The movement rejected the excessive ornamentation and decorative elements of earlier art movements, seeking to find beauty in the essence of objects and structures. The Bauhaus style placed a strong emphasis on geometric shapes, minimalism, and clean lines.

This approach to design can be seen in the iconic objects created at the school, such as the Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer, the Bauhaus Cradle by Peter Keler, and the typography work of Herbert Bayer. The visual language of the Bauhaus was centred on harmony, balance, and the unity of form and function, creating a distinct aesthetic that continues to resonate with contemporary artists and designers.

The Bauhaus Art School attracted some of the most influential artists and teachers of its time, many of whom played a crucial role in shaping the modern abstract art world. Among these teachers were Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, both of whom contributed significantly to the Bauhaus aesthetic and educational principles.

Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer of abstract art, taught at the Bauhaus from 1922 to 1933. His work, which evolved from expressionism to abstraction, was characterised by the use of geometric shapes, bold colours, and a strong sense of balance. Kandinsky believed that art should be a spiritual experience, transcending the limitations of the physical world. His teachings at the Bauhaus reflected this philosophy, encouraging students to explore the emotive potential of form, colour, and composition.

Various pieces by Wassily Kandinsky - see more here.

Paul Klee, a Swiss-German painter and theoretician, was another key figure in the Bauhaus movement. He joined the school in 1921 and remained there until 1931. Klee's art was deeply influenced by his interest in colour theory and the use of symbolism. His work often featured abstract forms, fantastical creatures, and whimsical elements that defied the conventions of the time.

Klee's teaching style at the Bauhaus centred on encouraging students to develop their own artistic voices and explore the subconscious realms of their creativity. His innovative approach to art education helped nurture a generation of artists who would go on to make significant contributions to the world of modern abstract art.

The influence of the Bauhaus Art School on modern abstract art cannot be overstated. Through its innovative curriculum and its roster of influential teachers, the school not only redefined the artistic landscape of its time but also laid the foundation for many of the abstract art movements that followed.

The principles of simplicity, functionality, and the use of geometric shapes and bold colours that were central to the Bauhaus aesthetic have continued to inspire artists working in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, and digital art. Many of the artists who studied or taught at the Bauhaus, such as Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, and Oskar Schlemmer, went on to become prominent figures in the fields of abstract art and design, further propagating the school's influence across the globe.

The Bauhaus aesthetic has also been a driving force behind the development of abstract expressionism, minimalism, and op art. Artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Piet Mondrian, and Bridget Riley have all drawn inspiration from the core principles and visual language established by the Bauhaus movement.

A selection of Bauhaus-inspired pieces - see more here.

The Bauhaus Art School, with its revolutionary educational and artistic principles, reshaped the world of art, design, and architecture. Its unique aesthetic and teachings have left an indelible mark on the modern abstract art world. The Bauhaus movement transcended the boundaries of time and space, with its enduring influence still evident in the works of contemporary artists and designers.

As we continue to grapple with the complexities of our modern world, the Bauhaus philosophy of integrating art, craft, and technology serves as a potent reminder of the power of creativity and innovation in shaping a more harmonious and functional future. The Bauhaus Art School's legacy will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations of artists to come, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and redefining our understanding of what art can be.

See more Bauhaus here.