While the Bauhaus school has been known by many as a men’s club – think Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy – recently the Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design has been highlighting key women from the movement with their series Female Bauhaus. Following on from artists Benita Kock-Otte and Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, the final exhibition in the series is celebrating the creative output of textile specialist and photographer Gertrud Arndt from 1924 – 1931.
Although Arndt’s original dream was to become an architect, she ended up in the weaving department from 1924 – 1927. During this time Arndt produced visually spectacular abstract carpets and textile designs, one of which forms the centerpiece of the exhibition. These textiles and drawings are a great example of Arndt’s affinity for aesthetics as well as her dexterity in using colour.
The photographic work of Arndt was relatively unknown until she first exhibited her self-portraits in 1979 at the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany. Although her photographic period lasted less than five years, Arndt ended up taking portraits, photographing herself and her friends in a range of costumes, hairstyles, facial expressions and stage settings. Creating various atmospheres in these works, ranging from severe to absurd to playful, these photographs were to become her Masked Portraits and are considered by art critics to be the predecessors to the works of Cindy Sherman. Today, they are considered to be one of the best examples of Bauhaus photography.
More often than not, we hear of the achievements of the men-folk from the Bauhaus movement. Women from the Bauhaus were too often typecast into “female arts and crafts” roles such as weaving and crotcheting, with little opportunity to move into more “masculine” departments such as painting and designing. While their presence has often been left in the shadows of their male counterparts, with the help of institutions such as the Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design, we can further explore women’s history and their important contribution to the Bauhaus.
Blog entry by Angela Connor in Berlin; Monday, Mar. 11, 2013