A Beginner's Guide To Bauhaus… in OZ!

2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Bauhaus movement – but what does it look like in an Australian context? Today, we’re giving you a crash course, tracing the beginnings of the Bauhaus school, founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, and his principles of cross-disciplinary collaboration, pursuing beauty and function in everyday objects, and aligning art and technology.

When the Bauhaus school was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933, many of the teachers and students continued the legacy of Gropius’ principles – including migrants to Australia. Now, as Bauhaus celebrates its centenary, two upcoming Melbourne exhibitions will reflect on the significant movement and its ongoing impacts.

Bauhaus is MUCH more than primary colours and lower-case typography!

Miriam McGarry

Marcus Seidler House, Wahroonga NSW, by Architect Harry Seidler, 1953. Photo – Harry Seidler.

Marcus Seidler House, Wahroonga NSW, by Architect Harry Seidler, 1953. Photo – Harry Seidler(Left) Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga NSW, by Architect Harry Seidler, 1950. Photo – Marcell Seidler. (Right).

Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga NSW, by Architect Harry Seidler, 1950. Photo – Marcell Seidler.

Miriam McGarry
4th of July 2019

What Was The Bauhaus School?

The Bauhaus School was founded by German Architect Walter Gropius in 1919 for art, architecture and design. Bauhaus means ‘House of Building’ or ‘Building School’, and its legacy has shaped modernist art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography. Pioneers of the movement include Mies van der Rohe, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Marcel Breuer (designer of the iconic Wassily Chair) and Josef Albers.

Rather than promoting a specific aesthetic style, the Bauhaus school was about a way of working – of collaboration between disciplines, and the value of craftsmanship coupled with an acknowledgement of the power of mass production to share beautiful utilitarian design. The goal was to create accessible, beautiful design for living – a Gesamtkunstwerk: ‘total work of art.’ (On a side note, the movement also brought us Bauhaus Ballet, which if you haven’t seen, is WELL worth a look).

The Bauhaus School was shut down by the Nazi regime in 1933, who were suspicious of the Bauhaus’ left-wing leanings. But teachers and students at the school continued to share and develop their teachings… including those who subsequently migrated to Australia.

Migrating Bauhaus – The Movement In Australia

The Bauhaus narrative in Australia is one of European diaspora, where students of the movement migrated to a new continent and created an enduring influence on local art, architecture and design. For a full discussion, including the works of artist Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack and designer Gerald Herbst, listen to the M Pavillion lecture ‘Bauhaus Emigres in Australia.’ Below we introduce you to two significant figures, architect Harry Seidler and sculptor Inge King.

Iconic Australian architect Harry Seidler was born in Austria, and forced to flee to England as a teenager when Nazi Germany occupied Austria in 1938. He later obtained a first class degree in Canada, before attending the Harvard Graduate School of Design under Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, and the famous Black Mountain College with painter Josef Albers. In 1948 Seidler arrived in Australia, and designed the Rose Seidler House for his parents. This important project translated Bauhaus architecture to an Australian setting, and Seidler’s legacy continues to shape the architectural identity of the nation.

Sculptor Inge King was born in Germany and migrated to Australia in 1951, but first connected with the Bauhaus school during a trip to New York in 1949. While in America, Walter Gropius assisted in arranging her a scholarship at the Chicago Institute of Design. King’s work was celebrated with a retrospective exhibition at the NGV in 2014, and her large scale sculptures sit at Heide and the Arts Centre on Southbank.

Peter D Cole, Elemental landscape 2009-19, enamel on brass, 52 parts, dimensions variable. Exhibited in the ‘Bauhaus Now!’ Buxton exhibition. Photo – courtesy of Peter D Cole.

Inge King Constellation. (left) Herald fountain, maquette 1957. Photo – courtesy of The NGV.

The Bauhaus school – (Left). Liam Fleming, Graft Vase, 2018. Image courtesy of the artist. Exhibited at the JamFactory in ‘Materials Matter.’  (Right)

Susan Frost, Porcelain vessels, 2017-2019. Photo: Michael Haines. Exhibited at the JamFactory in ‘Materials Matter.’

100-Year Celebrations

As part of the centenary of Bauhaus, exhibitions are being held all over the world the celebrate the ongoing legacy of the school and its teachings. In addition to the two exhibitions we describe below, you can also visit ‘From Bauhaus To Ikea’ in Sydney and Bauhaus Foto in Ballarat later in the year.

So much Bauhaus, so little time….

On now in Adelaide, the JamFactory presents Materials Matter: A Bauhaus Legacy  from May to July. The exhibition highlights the influence of the Bauhaus philosophies on the craft and design culture in South Australia. Materials Matter reflects the teaching practices of the Bauhaus, in relation to the JamFactory’s craft and design workshops in metal, ceramics, glass, furniture and textiles. The 10 exhibitors – Frank Bauer, Kay Lawrence, Christian Hall, Susan Frost, Gabriella Bisetto, Lex Stobie, Liam Fleming, Lilly Buttrose, Jake Rollins, and Ebony Heidenreich – explore the legacies of the Bauhaus in their contemporary works. Frank Bauer, whose father Carl trained at the Bauhaus explains ‘we are just part of a long, continuous chain, with a long accumulation of techniques and wisdom. We are always constantly building on that, and we should acknowledge that. We should give homage to predecessors.’

Materials Matter: A Bauhaus Legacy
May 17th  – July 14th
19 Morphett Street 
Adelaide, South Australia

Bauhaus Now at Melbourne’s Buxton Contemporary runs from July to October, and celebrates the legacy of the art and design school in Australia. The exhibition highlights the ‘visionary, collectivist ideals’ of Bauhaus, and the experimental practices of members of the Bauhaus Diaspora. Bauhaus Now features a Lantern Parade inspired by the early Wiemar Bauhaus mid-winter festivals,  as well as a video performance by Mikala Dwyer and Justene Williams titled ‘Mondspiel/Moonplay’ inspired by members of the Bauhaus forced to flee Germany. There will also be a recreation of Bauhaus experiments of colour and light, and archival pieces from Bauhaus students who migrated to Australia.

Bauhaus Now 
June 26th – October 20th
Buxton Contemporary 
Corner Dodds Street and Southbank Boulevard 
Melbourne, Victoria

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