Do you know Bauhaus Women? Never heard about maybe? As a matter of fact, neither did I – until now. The inspiring story about the women living for 100 years ago in Germany has been written by Ulrike Muller and is available to buy under this link.
‘Bobbed, geometric haircuts. Chunky jewellery. Vegetarian diets. Saxophone playing. Breathing exercises. Painting. Carving. Snapping with brand new 35mm Leica cameras. Dressing in the artiest handmade clothes. Attending arty parties. Ninety years on from the founding of Walter Gropius’s legendary art, craft and design school, the female students of the Bauhaus appear to have been as liberated as young women today.
The Bauhaus opened in 1919, declaring equality between the sexes. Where German women had once received art education at home with tutors, at the Bauhaus they were free to join courses. The photographs of these liberated women in 1919 tell, at best the story of the world’s most famous modern art school, accepted women amongst the well known men of the Bauhaus – Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – are celebrated, with names like Gunta Stölzl (female), Benita Otte (female), Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain (female), Ilse Fehling (female), Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (female).
By 1930, the Bauhaus women were recognisable for their accomplishments. Anni Albers left Germany for the US in 1933, with her husband, the painter Josef Albers, to teach at the new Black Mountain College, North Carolina, and make designs for companies like Knoll and Rosenthal.
Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain, also became a big success in the US with her Pond Hall pottery. Benita Otte established her own mill in Germany; her fabrics remain in production. Mean while, Gunta Stölzl in 1931 founded her own successful production business in Switzerland.
Many other Bauhaus women sadly disappeared or were killed during W.W.II, this was all too true of the toy maker Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, who was killed in a bombing raid in 1944, and of Otti Berger who, on a trip to see her mother in Yugoslavia in 1939, was unable to get a visa to the US despite an offer of work at Moholy-Nagy’s New Bauhaus in Chicago. In 2005, newly available Soviet archives revealed that Berger, a Jew, had died at Auschwitz in 1944.
Marianne Brandt, a metalworker, made a name for herself while at the Bauhaus. The globe lamps she designed in 1926, and the Kandem bedside light, with adjustable reflector, have long been standard-bearers of Bauhaus design.
The Bauhaus women’s legacy lives on. As Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983) said, “We wanted to create living things with contemporary relevance, suitable for a new style of life. Huge potential for experimentation lay before us. It was essential to define our imaginary world, to shape our experiences through material, rhythm, proportion, colour and form.”‘