The Bauhaus – Germany’s renowned art and design school of the early 20th century – was profoundly influential in establishing modern trends in art, architecture, and design. Founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, the school merged fine art, craft tradition, and modern technology to create a rational, unified approach to design. By combining the fine and applied arts under one roof, Gropius sought to re-establish the bond between artistic creativity and production.
The Bauhaus was active from 1919 to 1933. During this period the school was based in three different cities: Weimar (1919-1925), Dessau (1925-1932), and Berlin (1932-1933), under the direction of three master architects: Walter Gropius (1919-1928), Hannes Meyer (1928-1930), and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1930-1933). The school’s faculty included notable artists Johannes Itten, Lyonel Feininger, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky. While the Bauhaus was forced to close its doors in 1933 under mounting pressure from the Nazi regime, the school’s philosophy and aesthetic were transported across the globe as many of the Bauhaus artists fled or were forced to leave Germany.
Bauhaus curriculum combined elements of both fine arts and design education. A preliminary course introduced students to basic design principles, color theory, and study of materials. The Bauhaus style, also known as the International Style in architecture, was marked by the absence of ornamentation, clean lines, and harmony between design and function. In the fine arts, this aesthetic was often expressed in abstract, geometric terms, with an emphasis on simplified forms, color harmony, and the decorative play of shape and line.
Childs Gallery’s exhibition, From Bauhaus to Your House, presents the work of two Bauhaus trained artists, Fritz Levedag (German, 1899-1951) and Werner Drewes (German-American, 1899-1985) and will be on view through October 14, 2013. 169 Newbury Street, Boston, MA.
Fritz Levedag (German, 1899-1951)
Fritz Levedag was born in Munster in 1899 and began his art training in 1924 at the Dusseldorf Fine Arts Academy. By 1927 he had transferred to the Bauhaus in Dessau, then under the leadership of Gropius. Levedag was soon recognized as one of the school’s finest pupils and was regarded as a friend and colleague by his teachers Klee and Kandinsky. In 1929 Levedag left for Berlin where he served as Assistant Architect to Gropius for the next several years. Levedag later founded his own art school in Dusseldorf, however it was forced to close in 1937 under the Nazi regime.
It was at the Bauhaus, through the teachings of Klee and Kandinsky, that Levedag found a powerful visual language for his art. Joachim Büchner, the author of a catalogue of Levedag’s drawings, describes the artist as being “situated between Kandinsky’s rational approach to form and the magical metamorphoses of Klee. The geometric element prevails in Levedag’s work, along with his powerful sense of colour, and his works strike a harmonious balance between motion and fixity, between tension and radiation.”[i] The art critic Gerhard Handler likewise describes Levedag’s paintings as very geometric, almost cubist in character; “Proportion is the dominating factor in the simple structure of sharply delineated planes, triangles, rectangles, circles, segments or swinging lines – combining precision with spontaneity, restraint with freedom.”[ii]
Levedag continued to build on the theories of Klee and Kandinsky, painting and drawing until his death in 1951. Living a decade beyond his Bauhaus mentors, Levedag’s art can be seen as a last expression of their work. The paintings and drawings included in the Childs Gallery exhibition are drawn from Levedag’s personal collection of favorite works, as well as a number of works produced toward the end of his career.
Werner Drewes (German-American, 1899-1985)
Born in Canig, Germany in 1899, Drewes was drawn to the Bauhaus for its liberal attitudes, philosophical objectives, and blend of arts and crafts. He was first admitted to the school in 1921 and spent two years studying under Klee and Itten in Weimar. In 1923 Drewes took an extended leave to hone his painting skills, travelling to Italy and Spain to reproduce the Old Masters. He continued to travel extensively throughout Europe, North America, and Asia for the next four years. Upon his return to Germany in 1927, Drewes was readmitted to the Bauhaus (then located in Dessau) and continued his studies under Moholy-Nagy and Kandinsky.
Werner Drewes, along with Feininger and Moholy-Nagy, was one of the first artists to introduce the United States to the concepts of the Bauhaus. By 1930, deteriorating economic and political conditions in Germany encouraged Drewes to emigrate to New York with his family. In New York, Drewes taught printmaking at the Brooklyn Museum, gave lectures at Hayter’s Atelier 17, and taught painting, drawing and printmaking at Columbia University. In 1937 he was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group. In 1946, with the assistance of his mentor and former teacher Moholy-Nagy, Drewes was offered a professorship in the Art Department of Washington University in Saint Louis, where he continued to pass on the lessons of the Bauhaus to generations of students.
The Childs Gallery exhibition includes a selection of woodcuts and etchings by Werner Drewes, spanning his long career as a printmaker.
The exhibition can be viewed online at www.childsgallery.com.
[i] Büchner, Joachim, “Levedag: Zeichnungen 1924 – 1951,” Weingarten, 1985, p. 14.
[ii][ii] Handler, Gerhard, “German Painting in Our Time,” Berlin: Rembrandt Verlag, 1960, p. 36.
169 Newbury Street
About Childs Gallery
Established 1937. Fine American and European Paintings, Prints, Drawings, Watercolors and Sculpture.