The Bauhaus


The Bauhaus was a school that operated from 1919 to 1933 in Germany.  The school existed in three German cities (Weimer from 1919 to 1925, Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and Berlin from 1932 to 1933), under three different architect-directors: Walter Groipus from 1919 to 1927, Hannes Meyer from 1927 to 1930 and Ludwig Meis Van der Rowe from 1930 until 1933, when the school was closed by the Nazi regime.

“There was a certain continuity between the posters of Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen, but between 1920 and 1922 poster art divided into two streams: one for the masses, the other for the elite.” p. 306

There were three factors that were responsible for this split over class.  The first being the Dada Movement (1916 in Zurich, 1918 in Paris).  The second is Kasimir Malevich’s suprematism:

Example of Kasimir Malevich's Suprematism style

His style was nonobjective, flat shapes were painted straight onto the canvas.  He was connected to the creation of the Dutch artist movement “De Stijl” in 1917.

The third factor is the first Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919.  Here the “fantastic-mythic inspiration of Paul Klee and Kandinski and the structuralism of architects, poster makers, and other graphic artists” were united.

“During and immediately after the First World War, [which was] a period of crisis in poster art, the poster recieved fresh inspiration from two directions: the photomontage technique practiced by the Dadaists of Berlin, who were active from about 1917 to 1923, and the Bauhaus use of type.”

John Heartfield (1891-1968) created posters that had a large figure in the foreground and a contrast of other receding figures in dramatic perspective behind it.

John Heartfield, "Ten Years Later: Fathers and Sons," 1924


Russian artists accepted his work as influence.  They thought that it was realism (though it was actually photo-montage).  Heartfield’s influence was strong from the 1920s until the end of WWII.  Eliezer Lissitsky was particularly influenced in his poster for a Russian exhibition at a Zurich museum in 1929

USSR, Lissitzky

“In Bauhaus posters, the inscriptions became illustrations.  The unity or words and illustration in Bauhaus work is extremely rich and complex, and by the very structure of bauhaus production, posters remained for the elite.  But in the long run Bauhaus could not help but influence the development of the poster in Europe, particularly in Switzerland after the Nazis took over Germany and the poster there returned to an academic, rhetorical realism.” p. 307

Joost Schmidt (1893-1942) exemplifies the relationship between word and image in his poster Staatliches Bauhaus Ausstelling, 1923

Walter Dexel (1890-1973) was very influential in the Bauhaus

Herbert Bayer (Austrian, 1900-1985) is one of the most influential Bauhaus designers when it comes to posters.


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