The male icons of the early-20th-century Bauhaus school, like Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, and Paul Klee, are some of the most celebrated pioneers of modern art. But the women artists who taught, studied, and made groundbreaking work with them are often remembered in history books as wives of their male counterparts or, worse, not at all.
While women were allowed into the German school—and its manifesto stated that it welcomed “any person of good repute, without regard to age or sex”—a strong gender bias still informed its structure. Female students, for instance, were encouraged to pursue weaving rather than male-dominated mediums like painting, carving, and architecture. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius encouraged this distinction through his vocal belief that men thought in three dimensions, while women could only handle two.
The year 2019 will mark the 100th birthday of the Bauhaus. As that date approaches, this bias toward the school’s male students is being revised, and its many integral female members recognized by scholarship and institutional exhibitions. Weavers, industrial designers, photographers, and architects like Anni Albers, Marianne Brandt, and Gertrud Arndt not only advanced the school’s historic marriage of art and function; they were also essential in laying the groundwork for centuries of art and design innovation to come after them.
Below, we highlight 10 female Bauhaus members who contributed fundamental work, instruction, and innovation to the school over the course of its relatively short existence, between 1919 and 1933, and bolstered its lasting legacy.
Albers arrived at the Bauhaus in 1922, with the hope of continuing the painting studies that she had begun at the School of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg. By 1923, however, she was spending most of her time in the school’s weaving workshop, where she became a quick master of the loom. Influenced by Paul Klee and “what he did with a line, a point or a stroke of the paintbrush,” Albers used weaving to develop a signature visual vocabulary of hard-edged patterns. Her early tapestries would go on to have a considerable impact on the development of geometric abstraction in the visual arts, along with the work of several of her Bauhaus peers, including her husband, Josef Albers, who she met at the school.
Albers explored the functional possibilities of textiles with focus and passion; in 1930, she designed a cotton and cellophane curtain that simultaneously absorbed sound and reflected light. In 1931, she was appointed to helm the weaving workshop and became one of the first women at the Bauhaus to assume a leadership role. Several years after immigrating to the U.S. in 1933, she began to teach at the influential Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Albers became famous for the fabrics she crafted for large-scale companies like Knoll. She was also the first female textile artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1949.
Brandt’s early work so impressed László Moholy-Nagy that, in 1924, he opened a space for her in the metal workshop, a discipline that women had previously been barred from. She went on to design some of the most iconic works associated with the Bauhaus. These include an ashtray that resembles a halved metal ball, an edition of which is housed in MoMA’s collection, and a silver tea infuser and strainer, which was her first student design and today is owned by both the Met and the British Museum, among other institutions.
During her years at the Bauhaus, Brandt became one of Germany’s most celebrated industrial designers. And after Moholy-Nagy stepped down as head of the metal workshop in 1928, it was Brandt who replaced him, beating out her male counterparts for the position. During the same year, she developed one of the most commercially successful objects to come out of the school: the best-selling Kandem bedside table lamp. After leaving the Bauhaus in 1929, Brandt became director of the design department for the metalware company Ruppelwerk Metallwarenfabrik GmbH.
B. 1903, Racibórz, Poland
D. 2000, Darmstadt, Germany
Arndt’s ambition was to become an architect, but it was only after she landed at the Bauhaus in 1923 that she realized architecture classes were not yet available at the school. She ended up crafting geometrically patterned rugs in the weaving workshop. One of these textiles famously decorated the floor of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius’s office. But despite Arndt’s success at the loom, it was her photography practice, which she honed outside of the structured Bauhaus workshops, that would become most influential to modern and contemporary artists.
As a self-taught photographer, Arndt began by shooting the buildings and urban landscapes around her. She also assisted her husband’s architecture firm by photographing their construction sites and buildings. It was Arndt’s series of imaginative self-portraits titled “Mask Portraits,” however, that ultimately shaped her legacy. The series—which shows Arndt performing a range of traditional female roles, and wearing a profusion of veils, lace, and hats—is now seen as an important precursor to feminist artists like Cindy Sherman.
Stölzl was one of the earliest Bauhaus members, arriving at the school in 1919 at the age of 22. The same year, she penned confident diary entries that would foreshadow her success as a leading designer of the era. “Nothing hinders me in my outward life, I can shape it as I will,” one reads. “A new beginning. A new life begins,” goes another. While she experimented with a diverse range of disciplines at the Bauhaus, Stölzl focused on weaving, a department that she helmed from 1926 to 1931. There, she was known for complex patchworks of patterns, composed of undulating lines that melt into kaleidoscopic mosaics of colored squares. They took the form of rugs, wall tapestries, and coverings for Marcel Breuer’s chairs.
After being driven from Germany by the Nazi regime for marrying a Jewish man, fellow Bauhaus student Arieh Sharon, Stölzl established the hand-weaving company S-P-H-Stoffe in Zurich with former Bauhaus peers Gertrud Preiswerk and Heinrich-Otto Hürlimann. She ran the company until 1967 and designed countless popular carpets and woven textiles. “We wanted to create living things with contemporary relevance, suitable for a new style of life,” she once said. “It was essential to define our imaginary world, to shape our experiences through material, rhythm, proportion, color and form.”
B. 1892, Stuttgart, Germany
D. 1976, Bielefeld, Germany
Benita Koch-Otte, Woven Wall Hanging, 1923-24. Manufactured by Bauhaus Weaving Workshops, Weimar. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, NY.
Koch-Otte had already taught drawing and handicraft at a girls’ secondary school for five years before she joined the Bauhaus, shifting her focus to her own studies. There, with fellow weaver and painter Stölzl, Koch-Otte used textiles to explore new approaches to abstraction. To further develop their skills, the two also took classes at the nearby Dyeing Technical School and the Textile Technical School.
Koch-Otte married the director of the Bauhaus photography department, Heinrich Koch, in 1929. Together, they relocated to Prague when the Nazi regime rose to power. After her husband’s unexpected death, however, Koch-Otte returned to Germany. There, she became director of a textile mill, and continued to teach until the very end of her life—and her fabrics are still in production today.
B. 1898, Zmajevac, Croatia
D. 1944, Auschwitz, Poland
Courtesy of Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1955
Courtesy of Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1955.
Berger was one of the most creative members of the weaving workshop, with a more expressive and conceptual approach than that of many of her contemporaries. After Stölzl abdicated her seat as head of the department in 1931, Berger assumed the position and established her own curriculum, but remained there only until 1932, when she set out on her own.
Berger went on to open her own textile atelier in Berlin, and began the process of applying for a visa, with the goal of relocating to the U.S. There, she planned to join Moholy-Nagy’s New Bauhaus school in Chicago and escape Hitler’s regime (she was Jewish), but her application stalled. While waiting for approval, she returned to Croatia, where she was arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz. She died there in 1944, but her fabrics live on in collections from the Met to the Art Institute of Chicago.
B. 1896, Danzig-Langfuhr, Germany
D. 1982, Munich, Germany
Fehling had a natural talent for creating sculptural forms and theater designs, skills that she honed further while at the Bauhaus. There, she took classes with painter Paul Klee and sculptor Oskar Schlemmer, among others, between 1920 to 1923. Her objects and theater sets married whimsy and function; in 1922, she patented a rotating round stage for stick puppets.
After leaving the Bauhaus, she moved to Berlin and established a multifaceted freelance practice, splitting her time between concocting costume and stage designs and sculptures, the latter of which were celebrated in a solo show at Fritz Gurlitt Gallery in 1927. After studying in Rome in the early 1930s, Fehling returned to Germany, where her sculptures—forged in metal and stone and fusing cubism and corporeality—were deemed “degenerate.” She pushed on, continuing to develop her diverse oeuvre throughout her long life.
Siedhoff-Buscher was one of the Bauhaus’s few women to switch from the weaving workshop to the male-dominated wood-sculpture department. There, she invented a number of successful toy and furniture designs, including her “small ship-building game,” which remains in production today. The game manifested Bauhaus’s central tenets: its 22 blocks, forged in primary colors, could be constructed into the shape of a boat, but could also be rearranged to allow for creative experimentation. The toy could also be easily reproduced.
Siedhoff-Buscher also became known for the cut-out kits and coloring books she designed for publisher Verlag Otto Maier Ravensburg. But her most pioneering work proved to be the interior she designed for a children’s room at “Haus am Horn,” a home designed by Bauhaus members that exemplified the movement’s aesthetic. Siedhoff-Buscher filled it with modular, washable white furniture. She designed each piece to “grow” with the child: a puppet theater could be transformed into bookshelves, a changing table into a desk.
B. 1899, Cologne, Germany
D. 1990, London, England
Margarete Heymann-Marks, Kandinsky Inspired Teacup, 1929. Courtesy of The Ellen Palevsky Cup Collection, Gift of Max Palevsky. Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Margarete Heymann-Marks, Haël Werkstätten, Disk Handle Teacup and Saucer, 1930. Courtesy of The Ellen Palevsky Cup Collection, Gift of Max Palevsky. Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
At just 21 years old, Heymann refused to follow the majority of her female peers into the Bauhaus’s weaving workshop, convincing Gropius to open up a place for her in ceramics. There, the young, free-thinking artist began to create angular objects, composed of triangles and circles and spangled with constructivist patterns and colorful glazes. She left just a year later, though, after butting heads with her teacher Gerhard Marcks.
Heymann and her husband went on to establish a workshop, Haël-Werkstätten, that produced her designs. They were a quick hit, selling at chic shops in Europe, Britain, and the U.S. alike, but Heymann was forced to sell the company in 1934. As European political conflict stirred, Heymann, who was Jewish, fled to England to escape persecution. There, she established a new company, Greta pottery, and would later devote her days to painting.
B. 1901, Wesel, Germany
D. 1976, Berlin, Germany
Like many of her Bauhaus contemporaries, Scheper-Berkenkamp was a passionate colorist, an interest she pushed in the school’s mural painting workshop, where she was one of only several women. Her work took her to Moscow with her husband, Bauhaus peer Hinnerk Scheper, where the couple established an “Advisory Centre for Colour in Architecture and the Cityscape,” and concocted color schemes for the exteriors and interiors of buildings across the Russian capital.
After the Bauhaus shuttered in 1933, Scheper-Berkenkamp worked as a freelance painter in Berlin and published a number of whimsical children’s books, coming-of-age narratives told through the lens of fantastical adventures. Tales like “The Stories of Jan and Jon and their Pilot Fish” (1947) are today considered part of the children’s book canon. They were some of the first to pair surrealistic drawings with outlandish plots; two of the books have recently been re-released by the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin.
After her husband’s death, Scheper-Berkenkamp took over his color design business, spearheading the schemes for Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie building in Berlin, the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, and the Berlin Tegel airport building, among others.
After a fully virtual edition in 2020, Dutch Design Week (DDW) will be hosting a physical event in Eindhoven from 16 to 24 October. Additionally, DDW will develop an online programme including virtual exhibitions – 3D Viewing Rooms – and DDW TV. Guided by the theme ‘The Greater Number’, the twentieth edition of DDW is all about looking for the greater number.
DUTCH DESIGN WEEK 2021
This past year has shown us that while the digital part of DDW is crucial, the physical event remains key. That’s why we are optimistic, looking ahead to October and aiming our DDW sights on a physical festival in Eindhoven. DDW stands for serendipity and chance meetings – new designers, ideas and vistas that surprise and inspire you unexpectedly. And that’s what we want to focus on. We hope to be able to welcome visitors six months from now, in various locations, in line with Covid-19 measures applicable to the time and date of the event. This decision comes after consultation with the design community, important partners, and the relevant authorities. Although we do have contingency plans in place, just in case, we believe a physical event will be possible by then.
The festival will be supported by an online programme with, among other things, the 3D Viewing Rooms and DDW TV, which were first introduced in 2020. Both parts will be revised and further developed, to ensure congruity with the upcoming edition of DDW.
After the corona crisis, will we continue on the same road that we’ve been following for the past decades, namely a road built by economic growth? That is a question that many people have been asking for the last year. DDW doesn’t think so and calls for reflection and change with ‘The Greater Number’. Change should focus more on social values and better care for the planet, rather than just economic values. Perhaps less should be consumed to produce less waste, more sustainable products should be used, or a new change in behaviour between consumer and product is needed. A future in which there is a constant search for a better number: sometimes less, sometimes more but of higher quality and sometimes simply different. Including when it comes to opportunities and inclusiveness in our society. This is all captured in the overarching theme ‘The Greater Number’. With this theme, DDW hopes to inspire participating designers and partners to share their vision on the basis of various subthemes around the pandemic, the wellbeing economy, climate, inclusivity, and the design field. Read all about the DDW21 theme here!
Can’t visit Design Open but want to have a look inside the Designer’s studios? You can! In our video series ‘Studio Visits‘, designers from our DDW community give you an exclusive look behind the scenes. Meet Rick Tegelaar, Floris Schoonderbeek, mo man tai, and Niels Hoebers in their ‘natural habitats’ and discover what makes them tick as designers!
ARE YOU COMMITTED TO A GREEN AND SOCIAL EUROPE?
The New European Bauhaus, a European Commission initiative, is calling on the cultural and creative industry to build a beautiful, green and social Europe together. It is a creative and interdisciplinary movement that seeks to make green transformation with state-of-the-art technology visible and accessible to all. In addition to the call for new ideas and concepts, the European Commission also recognises what has already been achieved. Winners of the New European Bauhaus Awards will be awarded a cash prize of €30,000 for existing groundbreaking achievements and winners of the New European Bauhaus Rising Stars will be awarded a cash prize of €15,000 for their further development of emerging and pioneering concepts and ideas. Want to apply? Click here. The deadline for submissions is on 31 May 2021.
Dutch Design Foundation
Dutch Design Foundation (DDF) is optimistic and believes that the problem-solving capacity of designers can improve the world. That’s why DDF offers designers opportunities, support, publicity and a platform. DDF organizes Dutch Design Week, World Design Embassies and Dutch Design Awards and is active far beyond the Netherlands. Through debates, lectures, exhibitions and gatherings staged all year round, DDF provides a platform for the best and most promising designers, helping to disseminate their ideas and work. www.dutchdesignfoundation.com
Design Academy Eindhoven presents Moving in Stasis. This unfolding exhibition and public programme revisits and recasts the academy’s master’s graduation projects from 2020. These projects have been in storage for six months, awaiting their moment of display. In collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut, 60 works have now been transplanted to Gallery 3 By You.
Aandeelhouders van Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) en Peugeot-moeder PSA hebben het ja-woord gegeven voor de samensmelting tussen de twee autobouwers tot het fusiebedrijf Stellantis. Hiermee wordt Nederland thuisbasis van de vierde grootste autobouwer ter wereld. Stellantis verwacht de fusie 16 januari af te ronden.
The Salone del Mobile in Milano is rescheduled to September 2021.
“Being able to hold the Salone next year is an absolute priority for all those of us whose lives revolve around design. We have tried very hard over the last few weeks not to make proclamations or announcements that might subsequently have to be denied or revised in view of the evolving situation. Moving the dates of the Salone del Mobile is not just a matter of rejigging the calendar, it also has to consider the many days needed to set up and dismantle the various pavilions, which in turn have to fit in with the demands of many other fairs held in the Fiera Milano spaces. Now that we have achieved the best possible all-round solution, thanks to the collaboration of Fiera Milano, we are in a position to confirm the new date.” – President of the Salone del Mobile, Claudio Luti.
If shared mobility and autonomous vehicles take off, will people still buy cars for personal use? And what will car shopping look like? The Next Normal imagines the car buyers and car dealerships of 2030.
“A big cost driver in the current distribution setup is the number of cars that you have in a dealership. In the future, dealerships will have very few cars. I still think there will be a few—but then, through virtual reality, you can modify them, you can experience them in different ways. You can say, for example, “I want to see it in red.” Virtual reality will transform this car into another color or into other features.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted mobility, and its effects will linger well into next year. How will changing consumer preferences, technologies, and regulations shape the market in 2021?
COVID-19 swept across the globe in a matter of months, jeopardizing lives, upending businesses, and setting off a worldwide economic slump. Consumers are intensely focused on health and have altered many long-standing habits and preferences to avoid infection. Within the mobility sector, this means that many passengers favor transport modes perceived as safer and more hygienic.
Suddenly, private cars are in and shared rides seem to be out. Working from home is on the rise, again with the goal of preserving safety, while business travel and all the mobility services attached to it—flying, taxis, e-hailing— are in low demand. The best-laid plans of mobility players appear to be in tatters. It may seem that the acceleration of future mobility has come to a halt, but this first impression overlooks recent developments that will have a tremendous impact on mobility’s future.
Read more in the McKinsey & Company Compendium 2020/2021
Unfortunately, the Dutch Design Week has been canceled this year. This is due to corona and the international character of the event. We are sorry that it cannot continue. But as Donna-e-Mobile we will get to work to cover the most striking projects for our network during the digital event.