‘Rethinking the World’ – Bauhaus artists on display at the National Gallery

‘Rethinking the World’ – Bauhaus artists on display at the National Gallery
Bauhaus 100 – The Print Portfolios

Continues to December 1, 2019 – NGI Print Gallery, admission free

This year marks the centenary of the founding in Weimar Germany of Das Staatliche Bauhaus, better known as the Bauhaus, an institution which served to promote modernist architecture, making Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe international figures of influence – the recently revamped Bank of Ireland buildings in Dublin’s Baggot Street are now renamed The Miesian Plaza, a nod to the inspiration architect Ronnie Tallon took from Mies’s NYC Seagram Building.

But there were other aspects of the Bauhaus project – craft art, typography, even industrial design – where the group’s influence persists. For nearly 30 years after WWII modern German typography, thanks to a refugee designer, imposed its elegant purity and rigid simplicity on the design of Penguin books.

However, the new small show at the NGI, intelligently curated by Niamh MacNally, presents a lesser known aspect of Bauhaus, a display of selected images from the famous, but little seen, portfolios of New European Graphics the group issued between 1922 and 1924. The idea behind these, according to Gropius, was to show how “the artistic generation of our time shares the ideas of the Bauhaus”. Some 45 artists’ work is to be seen in this show.

Aspect

The images come from the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie, and are being uniquely exhibited aboard here in Dublin for the anniversary. Some of the artists displayed are known to all, Klee, Muche, Schwitters, Kandinsky and Kokoschka; but in contrast lesser, yet still vital, figures provide a context. This is reason enough for seeing the show.

Their work presents a little known aspect of the Bauhaus, through sets of images. There were to be five of these, but the one of French artists never appeared. However images by both the Bauhaus masters and German, Italian, and Russian artists did, distributed in large and expensive portfolios.

These all reflect the grim and yet exciting post-war years, also in their glimpses of violence and neglect prophesy the later years of oppression under National Socialism.

Bauhaus made little impact on Irish architecture except for a few select buildings, such as early work by Michael Scott. In Harry Kernoff alone we can see in a 1930s Irish artist some echoes of this creative outburst. But the whole range contrasts with what Irish artists were largely producing in the 1920s and 30s.

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