Theo Van Doesburg and the international avant garde exhibition banner

Theo van Doesburg and the Bauhaus

The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar in 1919 as a school that would bring together fine arts and traditional crafts. In its early years, its teaching emphasised expressionism and individual craftsmanship. Van Doesburg arrived in Weimar in April 1921 hoping to secure a teaching post and spread the more radical ideas of De Stijl. That summer he organised soirées which were attended by Bauhaus teachers including Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Having failed to obtain the post he craved, however, he set up his own private De Stijl courses in which he criticised the Bauhaus and argued in favour of objectivity, impersonality, machine production and technology. Several pupils from the Bauhaus - including Werner Graeff, Karl Peter Rohl, Max Burchartz, and Egon Engelien – attended van Doesburg’s classes, but their professors took a dim view of his activities.

Nonetheless the influence of De Stijl soon made itself felt. The Hungarian Bauhaus artists Andor Weininger, Farkas Molnár, Marcel Breuer and Alfred Forbat all belonged to Van Doesburg’s circle and formed a group called KURI (standing for Construction, Utilitarian, Rational, International). Established De Stijl trademarks such as the adoption of primary colours and a visual vocabulary limited to squares and rectangles with unmodulated blocks of colour began to appear in Bauhaus work. De Stijl’s importance to the Bauhaus was confirmed in 1925, when it published theoretical writings by Oud, Mondrian and van Doesburg.