The Bauhaus movement began in 1919 when Walter Gropius founded a school with a vision of bridging the gap between art and industry by combining crafts and fine arts. Prior to the Bauhaus movement, fine arts such as architecture and design were held in higher esteem than craftsmanship (i.e., painting, woodworking, etc.), but Gropius asserted that all crafts, including art, architecture and geometric design, could be brought together and mass-produced. Gropius argued that architecture and design should reflect the new period in history (post World War I), and adapt to the era of the machine. The Bauhaus movement is characterized by economic sensibility, simplicity and a focus on mass production. “Bauhaus” is an inversion of the German term “hausbau,” which means “building house” or house construction.
The Bauhaus school founded by Gropius was one of the first to teach students modern design. The school closed in the 1930s under pressure from the Nazis, but the movement still influences modernist architecture and modern design today. While Bauhaus has influences in art, industry and technology, it has been most influential in modern furniture design. Bauhaus bridges the gap between art and industry, design and functionality.
The Bauhaus movement teaches “truth to materials” as a core tenet, which means that material should be used in its most appropriate and “honest” form, and its nature should not be changed.
The Bauhaus movement captured the attention of many respected artists, designers and architects such as Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Mies Van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Florence Bassett Knoll.
The Bauhaus movement transformed the design and production of modern furniture by incorporating the use of steel as frames and supports for tables, chairs, sofas and even lamps. The use of machine-made, mass-produced steel tubing created simple forms that required little handcrafting or upholstery and contributed to the streamlined, modern look of Bauhaus furniture.