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Harvard museums bring back the spirit of the Bauhaus

An extensive public database chronicles the university’s rich holdings related to the Weimar art school

by Pac Pobric  |  17 August 2016
Harvard museums bring back the spirit of the Bauhaus
Josef Albers teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1950. Photo: David Cooper, Harvard Art Museums, © President and Fellows of Harvard College
The Bauhaus lives on near Boston with the launch of the Harvard University Art Museums’ comprehensive public database dedicated to Germany’s all-encompassing Modern art and design school. The resource includes details on the museums’ collection of more than 32,000 works of art and items related to the Bauhaus, a chronology of the Weimar art school and a map detailing Bauhaus’s lingering presence in the Boston area.

Harvard has a long connection with the Bauhaus. In 1930, Harvard undergraduates organised the first US survey of art from the Bauhaus at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge. The show—which included works by Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer, among others—later travelled to New York and Chicago, but was the only such American exhibition held while the Bauhaus was still in existence. In 1933, the German school and design studio was shut down by the Nazis. Walter Gropius, the architect who founded the Bauhaus by merging the state schools of fine and applied arts, moved to Cambridge in 1937 and became chair of the architecture department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, a post he held until his retirement in 1952.

“We wanted to create a central place to organise the Harvard Art Museums’ Bauhaus materials to help students, scholars, and the public find their way through the collections and discover new artists and objects,” said Robert Wiesenberger, a curatorial fellow at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, in a statement.

The scholarly resource comes ahead of the German art movement's centennial anniversary in 2019, which will be celebrated by exhibitions and programming on campus, along with events in Germany. The database is the latest of Harvard’s “Special Collections” projects, which focus on the museums’ holdings. Other databases are devoted to ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern bronzes, Lyonel Feininger’s photographs and early Modern European prints.

• The Bauhaus, Special Collections, Harvard Art Museums

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