The Modern Lens at Tate St Ives explores developments in international photography from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the third of a new series looking closely at artist techniques, we discover how teachings of the Bauhaus school influenced photographers around the world.

  • Horacio Coppola Egg and Twine 1932
    Horacio Coppola
    Egg and Twine Huevo y Piolin 1932, printed c.1950–70

The Bauhaus was one of the most influential art and design schools in the twentieth century. The Bauhaus existed in three cities: Weimar 1919–25, Dessau 1925–32 and Berlin 1932–3, where it closed due to pressure from the Nazis. Its aim was to bring art back into contact with everyday life, so design and craft were emphasised as much as fine art. The name ‘Bauhaus’ is a combination of the German words for building (bau) and house (haus); it may have been intended to evoke the idea of a guild working to build a new society. The teaching method at the school replaced the traditional pupil-teacher relationship with the idea of a community of artists working together.

A central tenet of the Bauhaus was to embrace new technologies. This was particularly evident in the photography department, where the celebrated artists László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Peterhans encouraged students to use their cameras to imagine new worlds.

As Moholy-Nagy said:

the visual image has been expanded and even the modern lens is no longer tied to the narrow limits of our eye.

Egg and Twine by Horacio Coppola

Photographer and filmmaker Horacio Coppola studied at the Berlin Bauhaus under the direction of Walter Peterhans. While there, Coppola created Egg and Twine, which is perhaps one of his most famous works.

Egg and Twine is characteristic of work created under Peterhans’ tutelage. Using photography to explore different surface textures and qualities of light in a collection of simple objects is something that Peterhans championed. This often resulted in compositions of eggs and string, as can be seen elsewhere in works by both Iwao Yamawaki and Walter Peterhans himself.

The Modern Lens: International Photography and the Tate collection is on display at Tate St. Ives until 10 May 2015