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2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of The Bauhaus.
The artist is an exalted craftsman.” The second sentence of the manifesto reads, “To embellish buildings was once the noblest function of the fine arts; they were the indispensable components of great architecture.” The entire manifesto is much like the exclamation mark that adorns its first sentence.
It is a document of enthusiasm, spirit, imagination and faith. This utopianism is tempered with a sense of history and tradition that was characteristic of the first decades of the 20th century.
There is an almost religious quasi-mysticism to this statement.
This makes sense, since Gropius is here alluding to the medieval guild system in which art emerged from the years’ long, careful learning of a craft under the tutelage of an acknowledged master.
There is no concise answer to the question ‘what is Bauhaus?
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’ First it was a school with a specific curriculum in art and design.
This tradition-soaked Modernism, if we can call it that, was evident in many of the writings of those who would be associated with the Bauhaus, like Wassily Kandinsky, whose “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” voices many of the same ideas that Gropius expressed in his manifesto. , put together mostly by Kandinsky and Franz Marc, reads like a sister-volume to the “Bauhaus Manifesto and Program.” Kandinsky and Marc, for all the radicalism of their early experiments in abstraction and non-representationalism in painting, filled the almanac (which was meant to be a kind of guidebook to their shared aesthetic sensibility) with copious examples of pre-modern art and craft.
“The artist is an exalted craftsman.” An exalted craftsman.
It’s a line from Sullivan’s late-nineteenth century essay, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered.” There is nothing in Gropius’ 1919 manifesto that comes anywhere close to the idea that form should follow function, that ornament is an enemy, or that formal simplicity is a goal in and of itself.
Gropius has one guiding obsession throughout his manifesto: that all arts should return to their basis in craft.