In 2019 we celebrate 100 years since Walter Gropius founded Bauhaus, the school which, due to its experimental and pioneering nature, would influence most of the future of applied arts, design, architecture and educational methods. Bauhaus was founded on the 1st of April, in Weimar, Germany, and was active only for 14 years. The school has had three directors during its existence: Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Mies Van der Rohe, and had its venue in Weimar from 1919 to 1925, in Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and in Berlin from 1932 to 1933. The school was closed in 1933 due to the Nazi pressures, but it somehow continued in another continent as the School of Architecture at the Armour Institute, now, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, United States. Important professors of the school include Mies Van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandisky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Adolf Meyer, Walter Gropius and others. These are all notorious names in the history of the modernist movement, while the women who studied, taught and represented the school are far less known by the larger public, due to gender bias. We are going to pay tribute to 8 of these incredible female artists, whose legacies go far beyond their time.
1. Alma Siedhoff-Buscher
1899 Kreuztal, Germany to 1944 Buchschlag, Germany.
Alma Siedhoff-Buscher was a German designer, who began studying at the Bauhaus in 1922, first at the Weaving Workshop and then the Wood Sculpture Workshop. Her designs of wooden toys are still manufactured today: Kleine Schiffbauspiel (“Little ship-building game”), composed of 32 wooden pieces painted in primary colors, then followed Grosse Schiffbauspiel (“Big ship-building game”) composed of 39 pieces and Wurfpuppen (bendy string dolls with heads made out of wood). Alma was involved in the development of “Haus am Horn”, a house designed by Georg Much in Weimar Germany, for the Werkschau (Workshow) in 1923. It is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. She worked on the modular white interiors of the children’s room, a true innovation for those years, as the volumes could be transformed from bookshelves to desks and so on.
2. Anni Albers
1899 Berlin, Germany to 1994 Orange, United States
Anni Albers is the first female artist who had a solo exhibition at the MOMA in New York, in 1949, being one of the most important figures in the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus and then at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, in the United States, where she emigrated. Her tapestries with geometric patterns, inspired after Paul’s Klee drawings, attracted the attention of the Knoll Company, with whom she collaborated.
3. Benita Koch-Otte
1892 Stuttgart, Germany to 1976 Bielefeld, Germany
Benita Koch-Otte was both a student and a professor at the Bauhaus, at the weaving workshop, and one of the most appreciated figures of the school, along with Gunta Stolzl, due to their abstract patterns. She also designed the kitchen of the Haus am Horn in Weimar, using as inspiration the one designed by Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky, the first female Austrian architect in 1926, which is thought to be the precursor of the contemporary fitted kitchens.
4. Florence Henri
1893 New York, United States-1982 Laboissiere-en-Thelle, France
Florence Henri was a painter and a photographer, who had the privilege to study under professors with great names, such as Vasily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant and to exhibit at the “Exposition International. L’Art d’Aujourd’hui along with Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, and Pablo Picasso, even before enrolling to Bauhaus. There she became friends with Lucia Moholy, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s wife, and began taking photography seriously. She had a successful career as a photographer, her works being presented at various international exhibitions. She even opened her own studio in Paris in 1928, but when the World War came, her photographs lost their attractiveness, being thought as degenerate art, and therefore she returned to her first love, painting.
“With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase—the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today. Above and beyond the precise and exact documentary composition of these highly defined photos, research into the effects of light is tackled not only through abstract photogram, but also in photos of real-life subjects.”
5. Margaretha Reichardt
1907 Erfurt, Germany to 1984 Erfurt, Germany
Margaretha Reichardt, also known as Grete Reichard, was one of the most influential designers from the Bauhaus school, being recognized as an excellent textile artist, weaver and also as a graphic designer. She has produced textiles for Marcel Breuer’s chairs using an innovative material, called Eisengarn, or “iron yarn” in English, which is a very strong waxed cotton material. Her wooden toys, the Jumping Jack and the Peg dolls are also an expression of her skillful and abstract approach towards a functionalist design.
6. Lily Reich
1885 Berlin, Germany to 1947
Lily Reich was a modernist designer and the wife of Mies Van der Rohe, whom she met at the Werkbund Reich, or the German Association of Craftsmen, an association of artists, architects and designers, founded in 1907, which played an important role in the modern movement and where she was appointed as the first woman to be a part of the Board. She and her husband worked together for 13 years, between 1925 and 1938, and two of their most appreciated designs are the Barcelona Chair, and Brno Chair, the most emblematic chair designs ever created. She also had a didactic career, teaching interior design and furniture design at Bauhaus while Mies was the director and had her own interior design firm.
7. Lucia Moholy
1894 Prague, Czech Republic to 1989 Zurich, Switzerland
Lucia Moholy documented the Bauhaus’ buildings and products, both as a photographer and publications editor, and was also involved in UNESCO projects, between 1946 and 1957. Even though her contribution was essential for the school, she rarely received credentials for her work, being eclipsed by Gropius and by her own husband, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
8. Marianne Brandt
1893 Chemnitz, Germany to 1983 Kirchberg, Germany
Marianne Brandt () designs are iconic, and representative of the Bauhaus movement: No 15 Kandem Table Lamp, Ashtray, or Tea pot in silver and ebony, and now her tea sets can be bought from the Italian company Alessi. Her work can also be admired at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, United States, or at the British Museum in London, United Kingdom. She is the first woman to attend the metal workshop at Bauhaus, and her designs were so abstract and practical, that soon she became, and continues to be, one of the most respected female industrial designers in the world.
Ana Mirea is a Riba Part II Architectural Assistant and Ph.D. student, based in London. She has graduated from the “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, and now she undertakes a research based Ph.D. in the field of neuroarchitecture, with a thesis titled The Influence of the Built Environment from Childhood on the Brain.