Thursday, 29 December 2011

Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943) - the Bauhaus Stairway and the Dessau Bauhaus

Bauhaus Stairway by Oskar Schlemmer (1932)

German born artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer is best known for his Triadic Ballet, in which the performers are transformed into geometric shapes. The work had its first performance in Stuttgart in 1922 and became the most frequently performed avant garde dance show of the time. 

The ballet was created at the Bauhaus, the influential school of art, architecture and design, which began its life in Weimar in 1919, before moving to Dessau, where it remained until 1932, and then dismantled shortly after. During this period it had been under attack from the far-right for its robotic and supposedly Marxist images. 

Schlemmer's painting Bauhaus Stairway is seen as his farewell to the Bauhaus. It depicts an ordinary day in the last year of Bauhaus in its modern Dessau building. In the picture we see the students walking up the stairs, away from us. Except, that is, for one figure, walking towards us, a symbol of hope, in sharp contrast to the stark realism in another depiction of the same event in the same year, Iwao Yamawaki's The End of Dessau Bauhaus, with its overarching brutality.

The End of Dessau Bauhaus by Iwao Yamawaki (1932)

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