Bauhaus, a movement taking only 14 years from its finding in 1919, till its closing in 1923, could squeeze in a great number of highlights that affected both the present and future. Even though, especially in the earlier stages, the school was male dominant; female artists, architects, and designers made their way around by reaching life-long achievements. The Department of Weaving was the only option offered. What they did in time was to develop weaving while working in other fields as well. Such that, emphasizing the gender roles within the school, eventually became synonymous with the weaving workshop thanks to strong and independent women of the Bauhaus.
Discriminations blocked many female student’s ways, put them off in the process of getting educated, and wasted their talent. However, these conditions created their own advantages. The focus of some of the students in the weaving and pottery -the fields considered more feminine at the time- had a big success while helping the Bauhaus reach to a wider audience all around the world. Lack of money and lack of support from the directors directed them in the way of finding new technics, developing the atelier spaces, expanding the limits of weaving and turning it into a modern industrial process.
Around 1926 and 1927, Bauhaus moved to Dessau due to political reasons, and only after those years female students started to get accepted in the departments they wished for. Here is a list of five inspiring women that had a huge role in the history of the Bauhaus.
Anni Albers was not only one of the most important names of the Bauhaus, but also helped the movement spread all around the world. Today she is considered as perhaps the best-known textile artist of the 20th century; after the British weaver Sir Peter Collingwood.
Her interest in art started at very early ages, but her enter upon the art world was discouraged two times during her studies. The first of these is that, when the Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka saw a couple of her paintings, asked her “why she was still drawing”. Even though she was badly affected by this reaction, she kept on working and got accepted in the Bauhaus in its very early years. Here she faced a second barrier where she was not allowed to study in any other departments but in weaving. Probably these conditions were not easy to tolerate, but she accepted the challenges and continued in the weaving workshop by creating various geometric forms and pictures.
With her husband Josef Albers, they followed all the steps of Bauhaus—from Weimar to Dessau, and lastly Berlin. This change directed her works depart from craft and focus on functional methods such as using light and sound, paying attention to durability, minimizing the faults that would extend the process. Afterwards, they started their long-term travels, including Italy and Spain first, and then further away to Mexico and the United States.
Anni replaced Gunta Stölzl in 1931 and became the head of the weaving workshop. However, she could proceed only around a year since the Bauhaus was under the pressure of the Nazi party and was closed in 1932. After the Bauhaus, Albers’ mission as a teacher didn’t come to an end and she carried on with producing. One of the biggest achievements of her was to be the first ever designer in MoMA who could have a solo exhibition. In the 1960s, she mostly focused on lithography and screen printing. Through her art and design career, she published two books, On Designing and On Weaving, she won honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards, and she wrote many articles which had a huge impression on the design history both in academical and theoretical manners.
The comprehensive exhibition of Anni Albers can be seen in K20 and K21 in Düsseldorf until 9 September 2018.
Gunta Stölzl — textile artist
Gunda Stölzl is the name behind the success of the weaving department of the Bauhaus.
She started her art education in Munich where she was born. During the war, she joined Red Cross as a nurse. After finishing her duty, she took glass workshops and mural painting classes while getting prepared for the Bauhaus. Eventually, she didn’t only get accepted but also received a full-time scholarship.
Since she had no other choices as a female student, she started her education in weaving where the head of the workshop was Georg Muche. He was considering weaving as a “woman’s thing” and wasn’t helping the students to take a step further—accept spending the fundings of the school to speed up producing more items. After students started to complain about his way of teaching, he was obligated to leave Bauhaus and Stölzl replaced him as the new director of the department.
She re-created the curriculum, added maths and geometry, taught new techniques and focused on simplicity and functionality as the movement itself required. As the new director, she took weaving to a level where it became as important as the other departments—which gave her enough confidence to write a letter to the school management, asking for the same conditions and salary as all the other directors.
Mies van der Rohe had to require her resignation in 1931, not due to the incompetence but because of the surrounding political atmosphere. After Bauhaus, she kept on teaching in other schools and set up her own business.
Lotte Beese — architect, urban planner, photographer
As the Bauhaus was offering no other departments than the weaving for the female students back in those times, Lotte Beese started there under Gunta Stölzl. In 1927 she switched to the Department of Architecture which was newly opened, and she was the very first female to study architecture and to study in the building department of the Dessau Bauhaus.
She was constantly taking various images as a photographer while studying with Hannes Meyer and later with Hans Wittwer. However, her romantic relationship with Meyer made her times spent in the Bauhaus get complicated since he was married. Beese left Bauhaus, but she followed Meyer in his private office in Berlin and worked on the designing and building process of ADGB Trade Union School which is one of the most important examples of the Bauhaus architecture. Afterwards, she started working under the Dutch architect Mart Stam who later became her husband.
As a successful architect, she helped the city of Rotterdam to be renewed after the damages of the war. She also created the first car-free street in the Netherlands in 1947. Later on, she took a job teaching architecture at the Academy of Architecture and Urban Planning in Amsterdam.
Marianne Brandt — painter, sculptor, photographer, designer
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Marianne Brandt was one of the most inspiring figures in the field of design since she has created various pieces that still effects the style of furniture, lighting, kitchen-wares and so on. Her designs have turned into timeless and classic examples of modern industrial design. She was mentioned by Moholy Nagy as his brightest student. Unlike other female students, she didn’t enroll in the weaving workshop but completed her training in the metal workshop under Moholy Nagy—even though she was not welcomed as a woman, she didn’t give up and used her talents to keep on producing with self-confidence. She was trained as a painter and sculptor before joining to the Bauhaus, and later on became the head of the metal workshop.
Brandt designed the lamp fittings for the Bauhaus building in Dessau. Through her designs, she could achieve to make contracts between the school and the industry in order to make funding. Her designs for metal ashtrays, tea and coffee services, lamps and other household objects, were among the few Bauhaus designs to be mass-produced during the interwar period, and several of them are currently available as reproductions.
After leaving the Bauhaus, she started working for Walter Gropius in his Berlin studio. During the times spent under the Nazi dictatorship, she left everything behind, moved in with her family; kept on painting and designing from home but she neither worked nor produced. Until her death, she lived in Chemnitz, the German city where she was born.
Ré Soupault — photographer, fashion designer, essayist, translator
Ré Soupault was one of the most colorful names of the Bauhaus history. She started her studies in Weimar at the young age of 20, got highly impressed by Johannes Itten’s color and form theory and from him, she “learned to see” as she put. After participating in the first major Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar in 1923, Niemeyer became the assistant of the Swedish experimental filmmaker Viking Eggeling, until they finished his short film “Symphonie Diagonale”.
Born as Meta Erna Niemeyer, she changed her name many times depending on her life experiences. When she started her training in the Bauhaus, she was already calling herself Renate which means “reborn”. In 1925, she adopted “Renate Green” as her pseudonym and started writing articles for the magazine “Sport im Bild”. When Bauhaus relocated to Dessau, she decided to stay in Berlin where she met her first husband Hans Richter, named “Ré” by Kurt Schwitters and became “Ré Richer” for a short while. After her short marriage, she started a fashion collection which contained comfortable and yet stylish pieces—started calling herself “Ré Sport”. She opened her shop in Paris which Mies van der Rohe designed the furniture for. During the times when her financial support from an American millionaire was cut, she had to close the shop, met her second husband Philippe Soupault, and started traveling the world with him. Through her travels, she didn’t set her professions aside, and kept on writing stories to magazines such as “International Digest” and “Travel Magazine”. She has also translated some seemingly untranslatable works from German to English.
Yağmur Ruzgar, 2. semester Public Art and New Artistic Strategies (M.F.A)