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.