Rationality, rejection of decorative traditions as opposed to functionality: an unconventional style back then, but still very modern today. Here is a collection of 10 iconic works to remember the Bauhaus Art
In this last tribute article dedicated to the legendary Bauhaus School, we’ll attempt to outline the outstanding features of its style through the description of the Bauhaus Art and 10 design icons that made the history of Gropius’ school.
Each item produced in that period clearly evokes the guiding principles that have become significant icons of modernism.
It is necessary though to go back for a moment to the ‘Arts and Crafts‘ by Morris and Ruskin.
Everything starts from an intuition that the artist/craftsman has the social duty to educate to beauty, intervening in the process of industrialization and mass-production.
However, an object is beautiful when it works. The concept of functionality expands to merge completely with that of beauty.
A new philosophy was adopted: “Form follows function“, as product of the rationalist revolution that was advancing and that “adapted to a world of machines, radios and fast cars“.
Shapes are simplified to adapt to the needs of mass production. Ornaments disappear until geometries are reduced to the bone, seeking the balance between aesthetics and functionality, combining abstraction and mechanization.
Bauhaus Art in 10 iconic pieces
We’ve selected 10 iconic pieces of Bauhaus timeless design.
1. The Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer
The first tubular designed chair, composed of a single tubular metal bar. It has revolutionized the history of modern furniture.
Designed by Marcel Breuer between 1925 and 1926 and originally known as model B3, it impressed the painter Wassily Kandinsky, Breuer’s friend and colleagues, so much that he named teh chair after him.
Geometry is discovered by eliminating the superfluous, until nothing is left but strips of canvas and chromed steel tubes, like those of a bicycle and their functionality.
2. Cradle by Peter Keler
The Baby Cradle was designed by the German architect Peter Keler on the occasion of the first Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar in 1923. Here the quotation from the work of the painter Mondrian that emerges from the use of pure geometric shapes and primary colors: explosion of yellow, red and blue.
The two-dimensional representation of the object highlights even more the geometric rigor of the forms: a triangle inscribed in a circle. The use of the circumference is not accidental: it allows the oscillation of the cradle making it a vital and energetic object and it is once again functional.
3. Adjustable E-1027 by Eileen Gray
Elegance and sophistication characterize this classic piece of art: proportion, lightness and transparency have made this table one of the icons of Bauhaus Art and generally of twentieth century design.
The E-1027 coffee table designed by Eileen Gray in 1927 seems in fact a contemporary creation, both for the use of materials and for the choice of proportionate and limited shapes (diameter 51 cm and height adjustable from 62 to 101 cm).
A curiosity: this great classic takes its name from the E-1027 residence built by Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, near Monaco. The name is a true ‘secret code’: E like Eileen, the number 10 for Jean (J is the 10th letter of the alphabet), 2 for B (adovici) and 7 for G (Ray).
4. Bauhaus chess set by Josef Hartwig
Bringing beauty into everyone’s homes through the use of everyday objects, educating individuals to the values of harmony, aesthetics and functionality: even a simple element like a chessboard can carry a profound ideological and democratic value.
Here is the famous chessboard by Josef Hartwig, designed by the German artist between 1923 and 1924.
Hartwig crafted the individual pieces for their actual function: that is, to perform well-defined movements on the board in the game.
Pieces are created in relation to their intrinsic purpose.
Aesthetic value is something that goes along with functionality. The bishop becomes an “X”, symbolizing the diagonal movements he can make, the horse is an “L” and the queen’s power is expressed in a sphere in perfect balance on a cube.
5. The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich
Speaking of twentieth-century design icons, we cannot leave unmention the famous Barcelona chair, a true icon of the Bauhaus Art.
The chair was designed by Mies van der Rohe, assisted by architect Lilly Reich, in 1929, on the occasion of the International Exhibition in Barcelona and has become since a symbol of style and elegance for architects and designers all over the world.
In 1950, it underwent a few design changes to keep up with new technologies development: the frame, initially composed of two bolted sections, was redesigned to obtain a single piece, stainless steel was introduced and the original ivory wild boar leather was replaced with bovine leather.
6. Brno chair by Mies van der Rohe
The Brno chair, yet another masterpiece by Mies van der Rohe, was designed between 1929 and 1930 for the dining room of Mr. and Mrs. Tugendhat in Brno.
Mies had designed their villa, also taking care of the interior furnishings, that acquired such fame to be still part of the collective imagination today.
Initially, he had imagined adding his MR20 chair to the built-in table, but it was too bulky. The result is a recognizable object that suggests lightness and luxury.
7. Tea Infuser by Marianne Brandt
The famous infuser, made in 1924 by the German artist Marianne Brandt, is the quintessential Bauhaus object that has still a certain recognizability and fame and being recently auctioned at Sotheby’s for $ 361,000.
The compositional concept starts once again from the revisitation of a traditional object, to achieve a completely innovative and surprising result.
The conventional design of a teapot is redesigned and reduced to its essential geometric matrix without ornaments.
The body of the infuser features a silver hemisphere, supported by a cross-like structure, the handle is a semicircle in ebony that juts out on the top to facilitate gripping and avoid burning during its use and the screws are proudly shown. Each element openly declares the function it is required to perform.
8. The MT8 lamp by William Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker
The MT8 lamp is perhaps today the most recognizable icon of the Bauhaus Art. Designed by two students, the German Wilhelm Wagenfeld and the Swiss Carl Jakob Jucker, it embodies the perfect example of the principle that “form follows function“.
The lamp consists of a circular base, a cylindrical body and a spherical lampshade: three elements that play on different transparencies. The ‘supporting structure’ of the object is in chromed metal and is shown and declared in all its functionality: the complete transparency of the lamp body makes it intentionally visible and recognizable.
The entire production process is totally industrial and it was designed to guarantee maximum production efficiency, that could be easily reproduced optimizing times and costs.
9. Door handle by Walter Gropius
Among the Bauhaus objects par excellence, we couldn’t leave behind a piece designed by the school founder Walter Gropius. The handle was originally designed in 1923 for the Fagus factory in 1923, in Alfeld, Germany.
The shape, therefore, although strictly geometric, adapts to the ergonomics of the human body.
The object boasts two records: it is the first mass-produced handle and, still today, it has sold more than any other product from the Bauhaus school.
10. Nesting tables by Josef Albers
To conclude our list of iconic pieces of the Bauhaus Art, here is the set of nesting tables designed between 1926 and 1927 by the designer Josef Albers.
The Nesting Tables set is a summary of all the principles of the Bauhaus. Colours are the primary ones (yellow, white, red and blue), now legitimated by the De Stijl, and the shapes are simple and geometric.
In fact, the set consists of 4 variable-sized elements that can be stacked together, becoming a single table or, if necessary, 4 tables that can be used separately. The combination of the materials used was also new: solid oak for the structure and lacquered acrylic glass for the tops.
The result is a multi-functional product with a playful and vital aspect, which seems to be a forerunner of the Ikea Swedish functionalism by at least half a century.
Below the collection of our articles tribute to the Bauhaus on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its foundation.
- 100 years of the Bauhaus: history, events and icons
- Bauhaus 100 years: the history of Bauhaus and the New Architecture
- 100 years of Bauhaus: the events not to miss