The Easel

9th July 2019

Easel Essay: Bauhaus: A Failed Utopia? Part 2: The Strains of Middle Age

By 1930, many key Bauhaus figures had left Germany for Britain or the US. There, the idealism around supporting craft traditions was less and less to be seen. Something had changed.

“Even at a young age, Gropius found himself frequently influenced and inspired by American architecture and industrial design. Mies van der Rohe once wrote, “We must understand the motives and forces of our time and analyze their structure from three points of view: the material, the functional, and the spiritual.” The oft-voiced criticism of Bauhaus is that, as time went on, that third component dropped out almost entirely. Why was Bauhaus unable to maintain its balance into the middle and later parts of the 20th century?”

Neo Rauch at the Drawing Center

One writer puzzles about Rauch’s works thus “We wonder why the characters are doing what they are doing, and they do not seem to know either”. Sometimes they wear clothing from other eras. The Leipzig of his childhood might be relevant. Just don’t look to Rauch for guidance – painting, for him, is “walking into a fog”. Besides, he “hates painters who think of themselves as philosophers.”

How posters became art

The role of posters is to persuade. They were perhaps the defining form of mass communication in Belle Époque Paris. Since then they have become more, a street view of culture. Not all critics approve – Susan Sontag described posters as “emotional and moral tourism.” That’s severe. There is something to be said for their democratic nature that tells “a story of collective consciousness”.