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Bauhaus - bald heads and the role of women

Zaktualizowano: 29 mar 2023

What defines Bauhaus as a style?

Interpreted in interior design, it is a style, which consists of geometric, perfectly proportioned furniture, often with different textures (e.g. matt next to glossy) replacing any ornaments. The interiors, however, lack trinkets - only utilitarian objects serve a decorative function. The space is enlarged by the use of light colours, with possible accents of yellow, red or blue in bright shades. According to Walter Groupius, a home should be adapted to the needs of the person who lives in it, and the goal for each person is above all access to sunshine, nature and space. Interiors reminiscent of the Bauhaus style should therefore be spacious, only optically divided into different zones, with large glazings or exposed windows, and a small number of functional furniture. It is from the Bauhaus style that the slogans "less is more" and "form follows function" originate, which are still repeated by minimalists today.

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Some of the most famous Bauhaus-inspired furniture designs are Le Corbusier's chairs and recliners, described by him as 'residential furnishings', designed in the 1920s in collaboration with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. The simple, yet functional "LC-2" ("petit confort") and "LC-3" ("grand confort") chairs and the LC-4 chaise longue in chrome-plated steel and leather are still popular with lovers of good design today. In contemporary Bauhaus interiors, minimalist furniture and simplicity are manifested, as well as moderate use of objects and ornaments.


In Weimar 1919, just after the end of the First World War, Walter Gropius took over as director of the School of Arts and Crafts. At his instigation, both the Academy of Fine Arts and the School of Arts and Crafts were merged into an art and crafts college called Bauhaus (German: House of Construction). The Bauhaus initiated changes in art education and reinforced modernist tendencies in architecture; it sought to completely erase the boundaries between the worlds of art, crafts and technology. The artists were interested in revolutionising everyday life and living together in society. They were looking for utopias and worked in an interdisciplinary way. The founder of the Bauhaus shared the modernist conviction that artists and craftsmen did not have to compete with modern machines at all; on the contrary, they should accept their presence and learn how to use the achievements of technology in their creative work.


Why were Bauhauslers bald and wore long gowns?

After the First World War and during the turbulent years of revolution and inflation that followed, Bauhaus students had to be educated and disciplined in such a way that the school could function in an orderly way. This is when Johannes Itten came in. While Gropius was initially fooled by the lofty message of 'self-control' propagated by the 'saint of inflation' Louis Hauesser, Itten focused exclusively on the spiritual orientation and implementation of the Mazdaznan doctrine. And what is this doctrine? It's premise is to focus on daily holistic

Its premise is to focus on daily holistic practices - i.e. breathing, eating and sexuality. These were seen as an important aspect of racial hygiene and eugenics. The project was inspired by the German Mazdaznan centre in Leipzig and the Mazdaznan Aryana settlement in Herrliberg near Zurich. Bernd Wedemeyer-Kolwe claims that the Bauhaus was the first art school to include artistic gymnastics in its curriculum.

According to Oskar Schlemmer, Itten had been using the Bauhaus canteen since 1921. His aim was to spread the practice of reforming Mazdaznan life. He was to be assisted in this by a Bauhaus teacher, George Muche, who was head of the kitchen garden and chairman of the Kitchen Committee. The imposition of a vegetarian diet was a good solution at a time of general meat shortage due to the post-war economic crisis. The exclusion of meat from the diet, started the addition of new, 'cleansing ' ingredients such as garlic and onions to the menu.

Mazdaznan student club

Georg Muche and Itten also organised the Mazdaznan student circle at the Bauhaus, which took on the characteristics of a secular monastic community. Consisting of both male and female students, the small 'Mazdaznan community' existed from 1919 to 1923. They focused on rituals related to the body: correct breathing, chanting combined with rhythmic movements, concentrated food intake, observance of fasting periods, various body cleansing procedures - including intestinal cleansing ( use of enemas and laxatives) - sexual 'glandular care', as well as concentration and meditation exercises. In his drawings, Paul Citroen is the only one to describe the practices of this circle in detail. In one of his drawings, he illustrated the Mazdazna method of skin pricking, which involved rubbing the skin with wood ash, pricking it with a needle, then lubricating the skin with laxative oil and bandaging the whole body in order to sweat out impurities. Citroen supports that this medium, opposing the centrifugal forces of inflation, adhered to the principles of 'living in general chaos' and 'heightened self-confidence'. However, due to the indifference of the majority of students and the protests of some workshop managers, and above all Gropius' resistance to the principle, the Mazdaznan did not take hold for long. Thus, bald heads and long robes were only worn by students adhering to the principles of mazdaznan.

Johannes Itten im Mazdaznan-Ornat mit Stehkragen ca. 1921;

Paul Citroen, Mazdaznan-Kuren, ca. 1922, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019


Bauhaus masked balls

It can be overlooked that the rigorous school of design, held magnificent costume balls. Students designed and created extravagant, sculptural costumes. These balls were decidedly different from typical Halloween parties. Competition between students and teachers was fierce. Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondian, Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe and many others outdid each other with ideas for the best costume.

Hungarian architect Farkas Molnar, who was also a Bauhaus student, stated in one of his essays titled" Life at the Bauhaus": "The fundamental difference between the costume balls organized by artists from Paris, Berlin, Moscow and those at the Bauhaus is that our costumes are truly original. Everyone prepares their own. Never seen before. Inhuman or humanoid, but always new. You can see stumbling monstrously tall shapes, colorful mechanical figures that don't give the slightest clue where the head is (...)" At first, the events were improvised, but later turned into large-scale productions, for which the school's stage studio was responsible. The balls often had a theme. One of them was "Beard, Nose and Heart," and party participants were required to appear in clothes that were two-thirds white and one-third mottled, checked or striped. However, the most famous ball theme was the 1929 Metal Party, in which guests were dressed in aluminum foil, spoons and a frying pan. Attendees at this ball entered the party via a slide that led to one of the rooms, which was filled with silver balls.

Photo by Karl Grill via The Charnel-House

Photo by Karl Grill via The Charnel-House

Photo by Karl Grill via The Charnel-House


The Bauhaus was shaped by many different protagonists. However, it is mainly male representatives such as Walter Gropius, Henry van de Velde or Wassily Kandinsky who are inevitably associated with the most important art school of the early 20th century. But what about the women? Although their significant numbers made up about a third of the Bauhaus membership, they were unduly overshadowed by the school.

"Where there is wool, there is also a woman"

Bauhauswebstuhl, ©Angermuseum Erfurt, Foto: Thomas Lindner

At the beginning of the 20th century, women were not allowed to apprentice at all. At one of the vernissages, Walter Gropius announced that "[...] every impeccable man regardless of age and sex [...]" would be accepted as an apprentice, for the summer term of 1919. Following this announcement, 84 female and 79 male students enrolled . Gropius thus set an example and made the Bauhaus a pioneer in matters of women's emancipation. However, the euphoria was quickly followed by disappointment, as women in the workshops - such as the metal workshop and the carpentry shop - were considered undesirable. The manual work was too difficult and Gropius feared image damage to the university due to the high percentage of women.

The taunting line "Where there is wool, there also a woman weaves, if only to pass the time", coined by the master of the form Oskar Schlemmer, led, among other things, to weaving being recognised as a 'women's class' in 1920.

However, some women were not so easily pushed into the weaving mill. Marianne Brandt, who won a place in the male-dominated metal workshop, became more successful than some of her male colleagues.

Marianne Brandt

However, the 'women's class' was also seen as an opportunity: Gunta Stölzl was even promoted to become the first Bauhaus weaving master. Margaretha Reichardt, who, after receiving her Bauhaus diploma, founded her own successful textile workshop in Erfurt, which can still be visited today - at the Margaretha-Reichardt-Haus in Erfurt-Bischleben. The original handlooms and the originally preserved living rooms are still displayed there. In 2019, on the occasion of the Bauhaus's 100th birthday, films such as 'Lotte am Bauhaus' and 'Bauhausfrauen' were made available, in which the former artists are finally introduced to the world. Exciting stories can also be found on the Classic Foundation blog.

Gunta Stölz

Margaretha Reichardt

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