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Indepth Arts News:

"Colourful! - The Wall-Painting Workshop at the Bauhaus"
2005-06-09 until 2005-09-12
Bauhaus Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung
Berlin, , DE Germany

Amidst the grey monotony of early twentieth-century architecture, the call for more colour grew loud and persistent, and it was not long before the first polychrome housing developments caused a stir in Berlin. Among the protagonists of this movement was Walter Gropius. At the Weimar Bauhaus, which he founded in 1919, Gropius pursued the concept of architecture as a resplendently colourful Gesamtkunstwerk. Today, however, 'Gropius' and the 'Bauhaus' are typically associated with white, cubic volumes and neutral interior surfaces.

This assumption is contradicted not only by contemporary documents, but also by the astonishing variety of original colours found on Bauhaus buildings in the eastern German states since 1989. The aim of the exhibition 'Colourful!' is to demonstrate the many ways in which a synthesis of colour and architecture was achieved at the Bauhaus.

In the very first years, the wall treatments at the Bauhaus were still inspired by Expressionism. By today's standards, these are often strangely unfamiliar-as are the early interiors painted in dark, earthy colours under the influence of Johannes Itten. The Dutch movement De Stijl subsequently left its mark: hues became lighter, and colour schemes were more directly related to architectural elements. This approach was continued in the surface treatments on the Bauhaus buildings in Dessau; original traces of paint found on the masters' houses bear witness to the fact that different colour patterns can substantially alter the appearance of identical architectural structures. Around 1930, great attention was devoted to the natural colours of various materials and respective applications.

The rapid changes in wall treatments between 1919 and 1933 are demonstrated in the exhibition with the help of numerous models, including life-size replicas of actual rooms. One section addresses the relationship between 'picture' and 'wall'-an especially pertinent topic for those workshop instructors who were also artists, such as Wassily Kandinsky.

The exhibition opens with an introduction to wall painting techniques of the 1920s, a era in which the demanding qualifications of the painter's trade were highly respected. Many of the colour effects that we admire today could only be achieved with specialised knowledge and extensive practical training. Students at the Wilhelm-Ostwald-Schule, a Berlin training centre for wall painting, have revived past techniques especially for this project, and will perform practical demonstrations during the exhibition.

Hinnerk Scheper
City Theater Jena: Farbgestaltung der Decke, 1921

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