The Bauhaus movement: Where are the women?

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Series Details PE 689.355
Publication Date March 2021
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Bauhaus, arguably the most influential art and design movement in history, celebrated its centenary in 2019. While many of the avant-garde genres that helped shape modern art focused on painting, the Bauhaus movement encompassed a wide array of media, materials, and disciplines, ranging from the fine arts to architecture and design. Bauhaus is renowned for its smart use of resources, simplicity, effectiveness and polished, smooth lines. Its principles still influence the design of contemporary architecture and everyday objects, embodied in the belief that 'Less is more'.

In an era when women had no access to public education in many fields, Bauhaus director Walter Gropius proclaimed that the institution would be open to 'any person of good repute, regardless of age or sex'. However, although the movement was largely populated by women, the names recorded in history are mainly those of men, while female Bauhaus creators are mostly remembered as their wives or assistants. Indeed, these pioneering creators were tolerated, rather than welcomed.

By many accounts, the early years of the Bauhaus restricted women to areas deemed proper for their gender, such as textiles and weaving, while discouraging them from indulging in architecture, sculpture or painting. Similarly, no matter how talented, women had very little opportunity to teach at the school and did not receive apprenticeship certificates, which prevented them from acquiring master's diplomas and ultimately placed limits on their careers.

In spite of these difficulties, women Bauhauslers arguably turned such constraints into an advantage. Under the direction of Gunta Stölzl, the Bauhaus weaving department became one of the school's most successful fields, with fabrics from the weaving workshop being very successful commercially. Architect Lilly Reich, metal designer Marianne Brandt, wood sculptor Alma Siedhoff Buscher and photographer Lucia Moholy are just some of those iconic Bauhaus figures. In recent years, an increasing number of museums pays tribute to their pioneering work and legacy.

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