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Disavowing Craft at the Bauhaus: Hiding the Hand to Suggest Machine Manufacture

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Abstract:

When in 1923 Walter Gropius called for a redirection of the Bauhaus curriculum toward industry, he dismissed the school's nineteenth-century aesthetic of hand craftsmanship and promoted a new, twentieth-century aesthetic of the machine, introducing the elements of what would later be recognized as a "Bauhaus style." To advance the conceit that the Bauhaus workshops were being directed toward industrial production, Gropius supported stratagems to make the school's products appear to have been made by machine, regardless of how they were actually manufactured. This article looks at ways in which evidence of the hand was minimized in order to make Bauhaus metalwork seem as if it were factory made. This is demonstrated by comparing examples by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Marianne Brandt from the metal workshop, and by studying the way metal objects were selectively chosen for reproduction in early Bauhaus publications, including some that were misleadingly pictured or even retouched to emphasize machinelike qualities.

Keywords: BAUHAUS; CRAFT AESTHETIC; MACHINE AESTHETIC; MARIANNE BRANDT; METALWORK; WALTER GROPIUS; WILHELM WAGENFELD

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/174967808X379425

Publication date: November 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Modern Craft is the first peer-reviewed academic journal to provide an interdisciplinary and international forum on the subject of craft. It addresses all forms of making that self-consciously set themselves apart from mass production— whether in the making of designed objects, artworks, buildings, or other artifacts.

    The journal covers craft in all its historical and contemporary manifestations. This ranges from the mid-nineteenth century, when handwork was first consciously framed in opposition to industrialization, through to the present time, when ideas once confined to the “applied arts” have come to seem vital across a huge range of cultural activities. Special emphasis is placed on studio practice, and on the transformations of indigenous forms of craft activity throughout the world. The journal also reviews and analyzes the relevance of craft within new media, folk art, architecture, design, contemporary art, and other fields.

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