1919 - 1934


The emphasis on simplicity in structure, shapes and colors, first explored in Constructivism and Suprematism took flower in two European-based design movements. Bauhaus and De Stijl were, perhaps, the most influential movements in the mass acceptance of modern art.

Bauhaus was the one school of art and design that actually had a school. The school’s curriculum touched on studies of materials, color theory, metalworking, cabinetmaking, pottery, typography, and painting. The uniform artistic vision stressed unadorned simplicity, functionality, and harmony with the modern world. Virtually every “modern” product that combines beauty and practicality owes something to the Bauhaus school.

The same focus on simplicity can be seen in De Stijl, which sprang up in the Netherlands around the same time. De Stijl grew from the same foundation as Suprematism in Russia with its focus on pure, primary colors and geometric shapes. Led by Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, De Stijl sought nothing less than the ideal fusion of form and function. The influence of their stripped down aesthetic can still be seen in the distinctive furniture and art of the Netherlands, with its primary colors, bold lines, and simplified shapes.

The original Bauhaus mission was to unite modern manufacturing with art. Bauhaus sought to infuse mass-produced products with their artistic viewpoint. The roots of the movement were in post-World War I Germany, but when it failed to connect with Nazi sensibilities and its physical schools were shut down, it turned it into an international movement when adherents scattered to America and western Europe where they became hugely influential.

“Get rid of the vague and dreamy. Repudiate chaos. Find a form appropriate to our times.”

These words are taken from a quote by Walter Gropius, who founded the original Bauhaus school in 1919. He and Mies Van Der Rohe, the school’s most celebrated architects, sought new ways to reflect modern society in sparse, unadorned designs usually clad with a modern glass curtain wall.

Bauhaus faculty artists, including Kandinsky, Klee, and Albers had an equal impact on the world of art and design. They wanted to provide an artistic aesthetic to an increasingly soulless modern manufacturing-based society. Kandinsky, especially, provided interesting new ideas. He was said to have a condition, “synesthesia” that caused him to hear notes of music based on different colors. His art was a synthesis of color and music. This idea, and those of composer Richard Wagner, provided a philosophical underpinning to future artistic movements, including Performance Art.

Other Bauhaus artists found different ways to unify their paintings and sculptures to the modern world around them. Some, like Viktor Schreckengost had as much impact on the design of popular consumer products as they did on painting and sculpture.