Bauhaus, A German Art School

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The 20th century saw a world shook by social, political, and economic changes, and it is the human response to these changes by which the modernism movement was defined. At the centre of modernist culture in design was Staatliches Bauhaus, a German art school, the formation of which in 1919 as response to the fallout of the First World War attracted students that hoped to contribute to the design of a new world. Initially, over half of the applicants were female, owed in part to Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius insisting that there would be "no difference between the beautiful and the strong sex, absolute equality...as far as work is concerned, we are all craftsmen.” While this was a very attractive ideal in a time where, until this point, the access women would have had to higher education was extremely limited, the majority of women within Bauhaus had to be content with weaving, or the “women 's department” as it was known. Compared to their male counterparts, the names of women are rarely encountered when discussing Bauhaus, or the modernist movement as a whole, despite Gropius ' claims of equality. The underlying dissonance between genders in Bauhaus reflected issues that continued outside of its walls, such as the aftermath of first wave feminism, and the effects the idea of the New Woman had on attitudes toward women. With this information, I intend to examine the following question - how did the continued separation of gender roles within the modernist movement impact the work of female artists. Through analysing two practitioners - Gunta Stölzl, a significant figure within Bauhaus as the only ever female master in the school, and Anni Albers, a student of Stölzl 's, and who, only after leaving the Bauhaus, became ren... ... middle of paper ... ... fondly of Stölzl, under whom she was taught in the weaving workshops. Albers claimed “there was no real teacher in textiles. We had no formal classes...I learned it all from Gunta, who was a great teacher.” Albers had applied to the glass workshop at first, but was rejected on the grounds that it was a “masculine” workshop, and so had to be content with weaving. Initially afraid that it was too “sissy,” Albers later observed that “when we realise that weaving is primarily a process of structural organisation this thought is startling, for today thinking in terms of structure seems closer to the inclination of men than to women.” Though she tried desperately to escape from these gendered connotations, this statement by Albers only reaffirms the idea that, although “absolute equality” was claimed at Bauhaus, the very act of weaving was inherently gendered as feminine.

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