Bauhaus Centennial

A Century of Bauhaus Photography

Bauhaus Photography Movement 1919 – 2019

As mentioned in a previous post, I was introduced to Bauhaus photography many years ago through a photography assignment. At first, I found Bauhaus photography strange and weird, and I thought it had little to do with photography in the first place…. But then, as I started to read more about it, I became pretty intrigued by it and its history, and when I had the chance to (re)visit Berlin, I made it a point to stop by the Berlin Bauhaus Museum. (btw, both Berlin and its Bauhaus Archiv Museum are a must-see!)

Bauhaus 100. This year we celebrate a century, one hundred years, of Bauhaus photography. And I think it’s worth looking at what Bauhaus was, is, and why we should care.

Bauhaus Museum. Berlin, Germany. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Bahaus Archiv Museum. Berlin, Germany.

[Above image: Bauhaus Archiv Museum. Berlin, Germany. Photo by Alina Oswald]

Bauhaus – A Brief History

Bauhaus (“House of Building”) started out as a German school of design founded in 1919 in Weimar by architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). Bauhaus was a progressive school of art and design that brought together fine and applied arts and many avant-garde artists creating various art forms.

In 1925 Bauhaus school lost the city’s financial support, and its founder was forced to move it to Dessau, where he built his famous Bauhaus building, a safe space for artists to experiment and create new, modern artwork. The school offered workshops in architecture, typography, weaving, and many other art forms. Photography workshops were added several years later, allowing students to experiment freely and take advantage of the smaller cameras and faster exposures available.

Walter Gropius left Bauhaus in 1928 and was succeeded by Marxist architecture Hannes Meyer (1889 – 1954). That caused the school to become less popular, particularly with the local government. In 1930 Meyer was forced to resign. Within two years, the school lost the city’s financial support and had to close. In an attempt to save the school, its final director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969), relocated it to Berlin, where it was closed, for good, by the Nazis, in 1933.

Hope. Bauhaus Rendering of the rainbow flag, including black and white. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Hope – A Bauhaus Rendering

[Above image: Hope – A Bauhaus Rendering by Alina Oswald. Bauhaus rendering of the rainbow flag, including the colors black (to remember those lost to the AIDS pandemic) and white (for peace)]

The Bauhaus photography movement has a lasting legacy from a historical perspective, as well as from an artistic (art history), and photography perspective.

Bauhaus Shapes and Colors

What defines Bauhaus photography? What distinguishes Bauhaus design from other designs? Simply put, after reading everything I could about Bauhaus, and while still studying it, I believe that, in a way and very simply put, there are three elements defining Bauhaus: simplicity (as we notice it in modern, functional art, for example), geometry, and color(s). (btw, a great book on Bauhaus, one I found at Bauhaus Archiv Museum in Berlin, is Bauhaus (bauhaus-archiv Berlin), by Magdalena Droste. It explains in detail everything one would like to learn about Bauhaus)

Berlin Bauhaus Archiv Museum. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Berlin Bauhaus Archiv Museum. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Now, back to shapes and colors….

Wassily Kadinsky (1866 – 1944), the “pioneer of abstract art,” taught at Bauhaus school between 1922 and 1933, and introduced the color-form correspondence. He talked about the use of primary colors and forms, universal, ideal visual language, and established basic principles of general applicability.

Based on Kadinsky’s teachings at Bauhaus on the color-form correspondence:

Yellow = Triangle

Red = Square

Blue = Circle

Then, other colors were added–black and white, green, orange, and violet–as well as their connection to geometric forms, such as point, line, surface.

More on #Bauhaus100 in an upcoming post. Until then, and as always, thanks for stopping by.

Alina Oswald



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