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The beginnings of the Bauhaus

Today, the Bauhaus is considered to be the "School of Courage" ("Die Zeit" newspaper), sparking off a revolution in art. "Gropius' call was like a fanfare and enthusiasts came streaming from all around" - this is how a contemporary remembered the early years in Weimar. In the 1920s, parents threatened their children:"If you don't behave, you will be sent to the Bauhaus!" But what exactly made the Bauhaus so revolutionary and attractive for some and so monstrous for others? And how did it come to be founded in Weimar?

 

About the beginnings: The Bauhaus in Weimar

You could start to tell the story of the Bauhaus in Weimar with its foundation in April 1919. In quiet Weimar, Walter Gropius, a young architect from Berlin, founded a progressive college of art and architecture. "We will desire, plan, create together the new building of the future, which will be everything in one - architecture and sculpture and painting and which will one day climb to the sky from millions of craftsmen's hands, as a crystal symbol of a new faith" he wrote in his world-famous founding manifesto.

But you could also start to tell the story much earlier - when the Belgian designer and architect Henry van de Velde formed the Arts and Crafts Seminar in Weimar in 1902, in the very building which he designed himself and into which the Bauhaus later moved and with which he aimed to create an "overall work of art culminating in architecture". It was also Henry van de Velde who proposed Walter Gropius as his successor as early as 1915 and made great efforts to ensure that he was later appointed as the first principal of the Bauhaus.

In a state of suspension

Like many of his Bauhaus colleagues, Gropius had experienced the horrors of the First World War first-hand as a soldier. After the end of the War, the time was ripe for a radical new start. The Kaiser was dethroned, a new German republic proclaimed and the first German National Assembly elected. Germany's first democracy was still standing on very shaky feet when the Bauhaus opened in Weimar on 1 April 1919. The era featured political unrest, deplorable social conditions and uncertainty. The country and its people were in a state of suspension.

 

The avant-garde on show

The first great Bauhaus exhibition held in the late summer of 1923 is also legendary. The State Government had linked the granting of additional funds to a public exhibition by the "Weimar Avant-Garde". Visitors from all over Europe came to the exhibition, which opened with a "Bauhaus Week" with performances of Schlemmer's Triadic Ballet, Reflecting Light Games by Hirschfeld-Mack and talks by Wassily Kandinsky and others .

The focus of the exhibition was the "Haus Am Horn", the first Bauhaus building and located not far from Goethe's Garden House. The furnishings and fittings in this model house originated from the Bauhaus workshops. The items on display included furniture by Marcel Breuer, toys and lights by Alma Buscher, carpets by Benita Otte and Gunta Stölzl, ceramic receptacles by Theodor Bogler. The work of the Bauhaus artists met with great enthusiasm but also with disconcertment and rejection.

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