Color and The Bauhaus

Color and The Bauhaus

Mark Chamberlain
Dec 1, 2009

I slipped into the Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity exhibit at MoMA over the weekend, in need of inspiration and sick of my own work. In part, I was curious as to the color language of this movement and if in fact this was the death of color and the beginning of the all-white interior. Not quite, I think.

The Bauhaus school began in Weimar in 1919, a post-WWI period for a defeated Germany and a good time for a clean break with the past. (For a Quick History, check out Retrospect: The Bauhaus & Its Influence ) The machine and machine-made were embraced as well as craft; tradition and primitivism were explored but without relation to cultural identity, and there was a sharp repudiation of the heavy, fussy, brocade and acanthus that went out with the ornamentation of the Victorian era.

The exhibition itself is a cacophony of everything that might fall under the rubric of design: fonts and fabrics, collages and color charts, architectural drawings and elevation plans — and, of course, the tube chairs, bentwood furniture and factory-made household items that defined style for the rest of the Twentieth Century.

No, the Bauhaus didn't throw Color out with the bathwater, they just used it differently — think of planes of color floating around room, rather than a room dipped it one thing. Items on display are installed on a series of accent walls in the Bauhaus palette, as designated by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer for the school's new building at Dessau. This specific set of colors flows through the exhibition like a stream: a primary triad of Cobalt, vermillion and Lemon Yellow; cement gray, sea foam green, cantaloupe, and a surprisingly solid dollop of Rose Madder. If you go to see the exhibition for yourself, then you'll be able to imagine how these colors might look in your own home.

Possible color recommendations: try the KT Color Palette by Corbusier, available at Aronson's.

Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity is at MoMA: The Museum of Modern Art from November 8, 2009 - January 25, 2010.

Images: courtesy MoMA

Bauhaus: Workshops for Modernity
Quick History: The Bauhaus & Its Influence
A Bauhaus Design Objective
Chicago Bauhaus Academy
Look! Miniature Bauhaus Buildings

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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