The Dallas Museum of Art recently received a pair of Bauhaus glass paintings from the estate of Jim Clark. The paintings, created by Josef Albers, were among the few survivors of the closure of the Bauhaus when it operated in Dessau.
The paintings were shipped in two crates from Europe when Albers and his wife Anni (Fleischmann) Albers emigrated to the United States. One of the crates was damaged in transit and all of the works inside were broken. The Clark gift contains two works from the second, undamaged crate, along with a series of other paintings by Albers.
The glass paintings, entitled Walls and Screens (ca. 1928) and Windows (ca. 1929) feature designs of colored blocks applied to flashed, sandblasted glass. The DMA restored the works to their original condition, to protect them and allow them to be displayed publicly.
Bauhaus was a German art school that operated for just 14 years in the early part of the 20th century, but its legacy is undeniable. The term literally translates to “construction house.” The school was founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius. His concept was to bring together all forms of art into one school and reunite the arts with crafts.
Albers was Roman Catholic German schoolteacher who trained as a painter and printmaker in the early 20th century. He worked in many media, but is particularly known for his work with glass. Even though he trained as a painter, Albers created magnificent stained glass pieces, and was asked to join the faculty of the Bauhaus as a stained glass maker in 1922, shortly after the school opened.
Albers fit well with Gropius’ vision of the Bauhaus as a place where arts and crafts came together because he possessed so many practical and aesthetic creative skills. As a faculty member, Albers collaborated with other artists like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
The school moved to Dessau in 1925 and moved again to Berlin in 1932. Its third and last director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is considered one of the founders of the modernist architecture movement, along with other notable architects like Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Bauhaus style in encapsulated in van der Rohe’s “less is more” philosophy. Bauhaus style includes simplicity and functionality. Simplicity lends itself to mass production, and that’s one reason the Bauhaus style became so popular among “ordinary” objects – furniture, decoration and interior design.
Because it was mass producible, the Bauhaus style was also readily deployable following World War II, when European cities were reconstructed and construction boomed in US cities. It made heavy use of common materials and simple, yet highly functional and highly elegant designs.
The Bauhaus closed its doors permanently in 1933, in response to pressure from the Nazi regime. Prominent staff members from the Bauhaus relocated around the world and promulgated the Bauhaus style of art education. Josef and Anni, who was Jewish, moved to the United States following the closure of the Bauhaus. Albers accepted a job at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, thanks in part to a recommendation by noted architect Philip Johnson, who was the curator of the Museum of Modern Art at that time.
For more information about the Albers collection at the DMA, please visit the Dallas Museum of Art website.
Photo Credit: Gaku, via Flickr.com