Bauhaus was a revolutionary school of art, architecture and design established by the pioneer modern architect Walter Gropius at Weimar in Germany in 1919, includes artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky

Introduction to Bauhaus

Iwao Yamawaki, 'Cafeteria after lunch, Bauhaus, Dessau' 1930-2, printed later
Iwao Yamawaki
Cafeteria after lunch, Bauhaus, Dessau 1930-2, printed later

The Bauhaus teaching method replaced the traditional pupil-teacher relationship with the idea of a community of artists working together. Its aim was to bring art back into contact with everyday life, and design was therefore given as much weight as fine art. The name is a combination of the German words for building (bau) and house (haus) and may have been intended to evoke the idea of a guild or fraternity working to build a new society. Teachers included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers.

The Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau in 1925–6 where Gropius created a new building for the school. In 1932 it moved to Berlin where it was closed in 1933 by the Nazis.

Its influence was immense, especially in the USA where Moholy-Nagy opened the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937. In 1933 Albers took its methods to Black Mountain College in North Carolina and in 1950 to Yale University.

The New Bauhaus

Josef Albers, 'Homage to the Square: Study for Nocturne' 1951
Josef Albers
Homage to the Square: Study for Nocturne 1951
© The Joseph and Annie Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London, 2006
György Kepes, 'Compass and Strainer Photogram' n.d.
György Kepes
Compass and Strainer Photogram n.d.
Anni Albers, 'TR III' 1969-70
Anni Albers
TR III 1969-70
© Estate of Anni Albers; ARS, NY & DACS, 2002

László Moholy-Nagy left Europe in 1937, after an invitation to begin a new school of art and design in Chicago. The school was first called The New Bauhaus and was later renamed as the Institute of Design. A strong series of departments emerged, aiming to train ‘the perfect designer’, and perhaps the most important of these was the photography department that thrived under the direction of Harry Callahan.

Bringing certain principles from the original Bauhaus, this new movement continued to see the camera and photography as a medium distinct from others, and turned its gaze onto the growing cityscapes of America, capturing and using its architecture as a structural device.

Bauhaus in Tate’s collection

1 of 5
  • Paul Klee, 'Comedy' 1921
    Paul Klee
    Comedy 1921
    Watercolour and oil on paper
    support: 305 x 454 mm
    Purchased 1946© DACS, 2002
  • Iwao Yamawaki, 'Untitled (Composition with eggs and string, Bauhaus)' 1930-2
    Iwao Yamawaki
    Untitled (Composition with eggs and string, Bauhaus) 1930-2
    Gelatin silver print on paper
    support & image: 112 x 80 mm
    Purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2010
  • Josef Albers, 'Study for Homage to the Square' 1964
    Josef Albers
    Study for Homage to the Square 1964
    Oil on plastic and board
    support: 762 x 762 mm
    frame: 780 x 780 x 30 mm
    Presented by Mrs Anni Albers, the artist's widow and the Josef Albers Foundation 1978© The Joseph and Annie Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London, 2006
  • Josef Albers, 'Homeward' 1933
    Josef Albers
    Homeward 1933
    Woodcut on cream wove paper
    image: 221 x 262 mm
    support: 323 x 502 mm
    Presented by The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 2006© The Joseph and Annie Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London, 2006
  • László Moholy-Nagy, 'K VII' 1922
    László Moholy-Nagy
    K VII 1922
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1153 x 1359 mm
    frame: 1308 x 1512 x 80 mm
    Purchased 1961© DACS, 2002

Further reading

Bauhaus 101: what you need to know
Find out more about the leaders of Bauhaus. 

Take the ultimate Bauhaus quiz
Take this fun quiz and learn a few unusual facts about this famous art school in the process.

The Modern Lens: How the Bauhaus school influenced international photography
This article looks at how teachings of the Bauhaus school including Moholy-Nagy and Walter Peterhans influenced modernist photographers around the world.

Bauhaus artists in focus

Paul Klee: master of line, tone and colour

Paul Klee was a German watercolourist, painter and etcher of abstract works, mostly small in scale. He moved to Weimar to teach at Bauhaus in 1921, moving with the school to Dessau in 1926.

Klee and his colleagues were working in this rather idealistic way. Trying to form a new society which extends the immendiate surroundings they they find themselves in.
Matthew Gale, Curator 

Watch Matthew Gale take us on a chronological journey of Klee’s work in Tate Modern’s 2013 exhibition The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee – Making Visible

Artist biography
Read Klee’s biography and find out which of his paintings are in Tate’s collection.  

Klee’s first rule of Bauhaus: you don’t get Bauhaus
This blog article is the first of six exploring the lessons of Klee. This one looks at the lines in Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook,with the next lessons including his colour theory, use of perspective and attention to nature.

A-Z of Paul Klee
Read our alphabetical blog series with facts on the work and life of Paul Klee, from A is for Ambidextrous to Z is for Zoo.

Listen to this talk which explores how Klee inspires poetry, using references to his works and statements including his most famous: ‘a line is a dot that went for a walk.’  

Wassily Kandinsky: taught the sprituality of colour

Wassily Kandinsky, 'Swinging' 1925
Wassily Kandinsky
Swinging 1925
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

Russian-born painter who is often credited with having painted the first purely abstract artwork. He taught a radically new approach to colour based on examing the relationship between point, line and plane. His interest in geometry was due to the expansion of industry and technology and his connections with suprematism and constructivism. He was appointed professor at the Bauhaus in 1922. After the closure of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, he spent his last years from 1933 in Paris.

Artist biography
Read Kandinsky’s biography and find out which of his paintings are in Tate’s collection.  

Kandinsky: The path to abstraction
Read the room guide to this exhibition (at Tate Modern in 2006) which followed Wassily Kandinsky’s intriguing journey from figurative landscape painter to modernist master, as he strove to develop a radically abstract language. 

Lost Art: Wassily Kandinsky
This feature explains the story of Kandinsky’s Composition 1, from its creation to its destruction in World War Two – after Kandinsky was forced to leave his teaching post in the Bauhaus.

‘Every work of art is the child of its time, often it is the mother of our emotions’
This article looks at Kandinsky’s ground-breaking theoretical publication Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912) and how it influenced British artists.

László Moholy-Nagy: transformer of photography and graphic design

Hungarian-born abstract artist who worked in several disciplines including painting, typography, experimental photography and film-making. He was appointed to the Bauhaus in 1923, resigned in 1928 and moved in 1937 to Chicago, where he became director of the New Bauhaus.

Artist biography
Read Moholy-Nagy’s biography and find out which of his paintings are in Tate’s collection.  

The Gesamtwerker
This Tate Etc. article looks at the influencial power of Moholy-Nagy’s work and teaching, with an emphasis on graphic design.

Albers and Moholy-Nagy: from the Bauhaus to the New World
Read the room guide to this exhibition on Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy (at Tate Modern in 2006). The exhibition documented the creative explosion of Bauhaus in the early 1920s and their separate paths through to their emigration to the US in the 1930s. 

Teacher’s pack: Albers and Moholy-Nagy (PDF, 2 Mb)
Download this learning resource for KS1-3 students which provides general information about Albers and Moholy-Nagy and their careers at the Bauhaus.

Bauhaus in context

In the short film below, Curator Chris Stephens discusses the work in the 1930 room at Tate Britain. This was a time when Modern artists including Bauhaus artists debated the appropriate response to the rise of fascism in Europe.

I find this room very moving because whether abstract or realist, it is full of works made out of the belief of arts ability to change the world. But of course the 1930s ends with the beginning of World War Two – the unleashing of the horrors of that conflict and the Holocaust fundamentally undermined that optimistic belief in the power of culture.
Chris Stephens

Other perspectives

My house, Bauhaus
In this article, artist Peter Fischli talks about growing up in a Bauhaus home designed by his father Hans Fischli, an artist and architect who studied there in 1929–30.

The genius of colour
In this Tate Etc. article artists Victor Moscoso, Gabriel Orozco and Robert Mangold, who were students of Josef Albers, reflect on their former teacher’s work.

Linda France on Paul Klee’s Burdened Children
Listen to this poem inspired by Paul Klee’s Burdened Children.

Bauhaus in detail

How to spin the colour wheel, by Turner, Malevich and more
Read an overview to colour theory and how Bauhaus sits within its history.

Utopias and Avant-Gardes study day
Watch the video coverage from this study day, which explores Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy’s shared belief that art and artists could make a positive contribution to the development of modern society.

Influence on other subjects and mediums: biology, film, sound and sculpture

Biology and the Bauhaus
This article looks at Bauhaus after 1935, and how Bauhaus designers and ecologists together shared a belief that the human household should be modelled on the household of nature. 

Where abstraction and comics collide
Read about Oskar Fischinger’s animated films that were partly influenced by the poetic abstraction of Kandinsky’s paintings and the Bauhaus colour catalogue.

Josef Albers, Eva Hesse, and the Imperative of Teaching
This paper examines affinities between the Bauhaus-indebted instructional methods and practices of Josef Albers and the sculpture of Eva Hesse, his student at Yale University.

Between Text and Image in Kandinsky’s Oeuvre: A Consideration of the Album Sounds
Focusing on the album of poetry and woodcuts called Sounds (Klänge), published c.1912, this paper examines how Kandinsky understood and exploited the relationship between text and image .

Related glossary terms

Black mountain college, the New Vision, industrial design, white cube, abstract artJikken Kobo (experimental workshop)Der Blaue Reiter