The Bauhaus and America
First Contacts, 1919-1936
288 pp., 7 x 9 in,
- Published: December 6, 1999
- Published: February 23, 2001
Margret Kentgens-Craig shows that the fame of the Bauhaus in America was the result not only of the inherent qualities of its concepts and products, but also of a unique congruence of cultural supply and demand, of a consistent flow of information, and of fine-tuned marketing.
The Bauhaus school was founded in Weimar in 1919 by the German architect Walter Gropius, moved to Dessau in 1925 and to Berlin in 1932, and was dissolved in 1933 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe under political duress. Although it existed for a mere fourteen years and boasted fewer than 1,300 students, its influence is felt throughout the world in numerous buildings, artworks, objects, concepts, and curricula.After the Bauhaus's closing in 1933, many of its protagonists moved to the United States, where their acceptance had to be cultivated. The key to understanding the American reception of the Bauhaus is to be found not in the émigré success stories or the famous 1938 Bauhaus exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, but in the course of America's early contact with the Bauhaus. In this book Margret Kentgens-Craig shows that the fame of the Bauhaus in America was the result not only of the inherent qualities of its concepts and products, but also of a unique congruence of cultural supply and demand, of a consistent flow of information, and of fine-tuned marketing. Thus the history of the American reception of the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 1930s foreshadows the patterns of fame-making that became typical of the post-World War II art world. The transfer of artistic, intellectual, and pedagogical concepts from one cultural context to another is a process of transformation and integration. In presenting a case study of this process, the book also provides fresh insights into the German-American cultural history of the period from 1919 to 1936.
An important book on the history of the modern movement.
Berthold Burkhardt, Department of Architecture, Technische Universität Braunschweig
In America, perceptions of the German Bauhaus and its role in all this century's design arts rely more on received myth than studied reality. Margret Kentgens-Craig's fresh documentation of this yeasty period—of the perception, reception, and Americanization of transforming artistic and cultural ideas—tells the story with clarity and subtlety. She captures the complex interplay of personal attitudes and roles while unraveling phases and faces from which we have evolved.
Jane F. McCullough Thompson, Thompson Design Group, Bauhaus historian and author
This book presents a well-rounded picture of Modernism as it emerged in American architecture in the Twenties and Thirties. An impressive roster of names is added to the more familiar ones. Through personal encounters on both sides of the Atlantic, the people discusses in the book disseminated the ideals and ideas of the Bauhaus. The author has gathered impressive evidence, making this book a valuable contribution to Bauhaus literature.
Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, Professor of the History of Art and Design, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science
An intelligent book, illuminating the perception of the Bauhaus in the outside world and the contributions of America to the Bauhaus as well as the other way round.