Arts of any variety had a rough go of it in Germany during the twentieth century. During the earliest years of the nineteen hundreds there were moments of incalculable influence, though.
Taking some of the basic tenets of Cubism – purposefully or unknowingly – a school was birthed from the ashes of previous institutions. Walter Gropius, an architect by trade, combined a fine arts program with one more bent on pushing concepts of design forward which resulted in the Bauhaus. And from 1919 through 1933 the school functioned as the world’s leader in innovative approaches to painting, architecture, design and pottery only to be disassembled by Adolf Hitler as one of his first acts after coming to power. The immediacy with which he dispatched the school should aptly point towards the influence Gropius and the following heads of school wielded.
Earlier, though, when deciphering the principals on which the school would be based, Gropius seemed most interested in the merger of fine art and things of beauty and wide reaching functionality best serving the most amount of people.
The overarching bent of the Bauhaus’ program attracted some of the best known artists working in then obtuse terms. Everyone from Wassily Kandinsky to László Moholy-Nagy and Paul Klee were at one time or another counted as faculty, all living on the school’s campus in the most modern of housing.
While the school was unquestioningly important in the realms of painting and design, architecture might be the discipline most impact by those associated with the German school.
With the war ostensibly ending creative pursuits unhindered by the government in Germany, a great many faculty members found themselves roaming about free nations in Europe and into England. Both Gropius and another professor from the Bauhaus, though, would eventually wind up heading architecture programs in the States.
Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, while important in Europe, basically established modern architecture in the States with the latter dispensing a style first unique to Chicago, where he lived, and then throughout the world. Again, simplicity of design and functionality were tantamount to success. The innovations the two arrived at weren’t award top honors in a contest to plan the Tribune Building in Chicago, but soon were replicated throughout the city.
It’s difficult to understand why the sleek Bauhaus design – if shorn of philosophical backing – couldn’t have functioned under Hitler’s rule. But if it did, buildings from 1940 on in the States would look drastically different.