and Beyond was an attempt to build something new and positive out of the ashes of World War I when Gropius stated “Let us desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future together.” The central concept was that no one art form was inherently better than any other and that the fine arts and applied arts must be studied and used together. Through good design the new artist/craftsman would create a better world. The very fact that easel painting was replaced in the curriculum by mural painting showed Gropius’ commitment to integrate all the arts within architecture. Of all of the artists associated with the Bauhaus during its brief 15 years, it is Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) who actually devoted a lifetime to a career which incorporated the ideal of total integration of the arts, in design, advertising, architecture, public sculpture and painting. Herbert Bayer was born April 5, 1900 in Haag am Hausruch, Austria. Because of a book he read by Vassily Kandinsky (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) he enrolled at Weimar Bauhaus at the age of 21. He actually arrived at the Bauhaus six months before Kandinsky began teaching. Bayer studied at the Bauhaus for two years, taking a leave in 1923 to travel through Italy. He had arrived at the Bauhaus with almost no prior background in art, and thus offered the perfect “blank slate” upon which to create the essential Bauhaus artist. Since the Bauhaus offered no art history in its curriculum it made sense to expand his firsthand knowledge of art architecture and design by spending a year traveling in Italy, sketching and painting. To support himself he painted houses and stage sets during his travels, thus applying the integration of craftsman and artist at the first opportunity. In 1925 he was offered a position on the faculty at the Bauhaus, as Master of Typography. It was then, in conjunction with the ideas of Moholy-Nagy, that Bayer developed a “universal alphabet” using only lower case letters. This was designed to be a practical typeface, which was large enough to read and free of distortions and curlicues, sans-serif type. Bayer applied this type design to ad copy, posters and books throughout his career. In 1928 Bayer left the Bauhaus to pursue a design career in Berlin. It was his desire to put the theories of the Bauhaus into practice in design and advertising. In 1933 he produced a “bayer type”. During his Berlin years, in addition to his design work, Bayer ventured into photography, which he used in both commercial (ads and posters) and fine art production. With Maholy-Nagy, Hebert Bayer was an early creator of photoplastic or photomontage. The altering of photographic imagery through the use of multiple
negatives and collage meshed well with Surrealist imagery, as in self-portrait (1932), lonely metropolitan (1932), and metamorphosis (1936). The later 1930’s were difficult times for free expression. Artists were among the many groups who felt the need to find exile outside Nazi Germany. The Bauhaus had closed in 1933 and many of its artists/faculty had already emigrated to the United States, finding work teaching at Harvard and at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Bayer had traveled to the U.S. in 1937 and became involved in the design of an exhibition on the Bauhaus at the newly created Museum of Modern Art. In 1938 he moved to New York City. Deposition (1939) while depicting the tools of Christ’s crucifixion, also portends the dark future of a Nazi victory in Europe, a victory that seemed quite possible in 1939. The exhibition Bauhaus 1919-1928 opened at the Museum of Modern Art and later traveled around the United States. It provided an introduction to modernist design to a country slow to accept abstraction in painting, much less in advertising, which required client acceptance. During his tenure in New York, Bayer’s graphic work prospered, but when the opportunity arose to move back to a mountain environment he took it, moving to Aspen, Colorado in 1946. He accepted a position as design consultant for Walter Paepcke and the Container Corporation of America, whose headquarters were in Chicago. The Aspen of 1946 was a small mountain town of less than 800 residents and only the beginnings of a ski town, Feature
An issue of American Contemporary Art magazine, published in January 2011.