‘Let us create the new building of the future together; it will combine architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single form.’
– Walter Gropius, The Bauhaus Manifesto
Staatliche Bauhaus Weimar was born in 1919. Bauhaus was an innovative art school designed out of the dreams of architect Walter Gropius. Gropius wanted to develop ‘a visual science’, and from this idea he created perhaps the twentieth century’s most influential art school. This film memoir of Bauhaus includes contributions from former students and historians, a strong selection of artworks as well as archival footage including interviews with Walter Gropius. Exceptional visuals add to the beauty of a well-narrated documentary.
The film recounts the beginning of Bauhaus. The school was the first to allow students to hone their craft by getting a hands-on education. They were able to do this in the one-of-a-kind workshops set up by masters of the craft. Bauhaus was fortunate to attract as staff some of the most significant artists of the time including, Paul Klee, Gerhard Marcks, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, Johannes Itten, and Lyonel Feininger.
The film also discusses the influence of the Bauhaus art students. The Bauhaus attracted a particular type of person as a student. Most of the students had the same political views, as well as a similar outlook on life. Within the broader society, there was a certain stigma attached to someone who was a Bauhaus art student. As a former student recounts, a mother had seen a group of the students and said to her child, ‘Don’t look. They’re from Bauhaus.’ The Bauhaus was also one of the first educational places that did not discriminate against anyone.
The latter half of the Bauhaus story is not as encouraging. After being shut down in Weimar, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau. Gropius stepped down as director and hired Hannes Meyer, who was a staunch communist. As a consequence, Bauhaus was branded as communist. In 1930, Meyer was fired and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was named as the director. But because of the Nazis coming to power, the Dessau Bauhaus too was shut down. The last home of Bauhaus was in Berlin. The school was moved to a very depressing factory. Then on 11 April 1933, Nazi soldiers arrived and took some of the students away and with this the story of the Bauhaus came to an end.
The film concludes that even though Bauhaus did not last that long, its influence has been profound. In an interview the architect Philip Johnson sums up the school with one simple remark: ‘The Bauhaus meant something to everybody.’ With the viewing of this film, it is easy to see why.
Extras include picture gallery and trailers.
Art Lives, from Arthaus, is a series of compelling documentaries on artists and art movements released for the first time on DVD in the English language.