Exhibitions | When the Bauhaus went Dutch

Theo van Doesburg,
Grundbegriffe der neuen
gestaltenden Kunst,
part 6, Bauhausbücher
series. Design
van Doesburg, 1925

Private collection,
with thanks to DerdaBerli

Netherlands ⇄ Bauhaus
– Pioneers of a New World
Museum Boijmans
Van Beuningen
Rotterdam | Netherlands
9 February > 26 May 2019

Postcard of the
Bauhaus in Weimar,
appended and graffitied
by Theo van Doesburg
with the message
‘before the collapse,
bombed by n’dimensional
style artillery.’

September 1921

The postcard, above, expresses explicit intent. Sent by feisty Dutchman, Theo Van Doesburg, in September 1921, it shows a picture of the Bauhaus building in Weimar that he smothered with pro-De Stijl graffiti. Van Doesburg had meant business when he moved to Weimar earlier that year. Painter, poet, art critic, designer, typographer, architect, performance artist, as well as a founder member and self-appointed ‘ambassador’ of the burgeoning De Stijl group, he was hell-bent on converting the Bauhaus to adopt a new approach. The design school’s director Walter Gropius, however, who allowed him to lecture, decided not to invite him to become a master. Not easily put off, Van Doesburg promptly installed himself in an adjacent building and by June had set up his own course and was poaching Bauhaus students.

Marcel Breuer, four
side tables, c 1926
Nickel-plated metal,
lacquered in four colours.
Collection Büscher

Stemming from cubism and influenced by constructivism, De Stijl – of which Piet Mondrian was also a prominent member – advocated pure abstraction and universality in art, architecture and design. It stripped out everything but the essentials of form and colour, restricting itself to only verticals and horizontals: to black, white and primary colours. While Gropius had objected to Van Doesburg’s dogmatic and aggressive views, younger Bauhaus masters, including, importantly, Mies van Der Rohe, recognising that in order to progress the school needed to break away from its German expressionist roots and open itself up to international influences, were inspired by them. Student, then master, Marcel Breuer, would develop his signature tubular steel furniture based on De Stijl principles.

2019 might be the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the legendary design school but what would grow to become universally recognised as Bauhaus style owes much to the Dutch, and the Dutch aren’t going to let anyone forget it.

Jan Buijs, Nacht – when
I’m building, 1917
Mixed media on paper.
Private collection

Walter Gropius (author),
Lyonel Feininger (cover
design), Programm des
Staatlichen Bauhauses
in Weimar, April 1919
Woodcut. Private collection,
with thanks to DerdaBerlin

Netherlands ⇄ Bauhaus – Pioneers of a New World at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is less about the cross-pollination that occurred between The Netherlands and the Bauhaus and more about underlining the fact that Dutch ideas were instrumental in ‘modernising’ it. Less brutal than Van Doesburg’s graffiti, the two small arrows inserted into the title of this exhibition are a subtle hint that ideas flowed, in the first instance, from The Netherlands to the Bauhaus, before anything flowed back.

László Moholy-Nagy,
Prospectus 14,
Bauhausbücher, 1929
Collection Flip Bool

But the Dutch can’t have it all their own way; the multi-talented Hungarian, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy who arrived at the Bauhaus in 1923, ostensibly to run the foundation course, who, between 1923 and 1928, played a significant part in all aspects of its further modernisation, was also photo editor of the Dutch avant-garde magazine International Revue from 1927 to 1929, which had significant impact on contemporary Dutch photography. When, in 1933, the Nazi regime forced the closure of the Bauhaus, and provoked the modernist diaspora – inadvertently, causing modernist ideas to disseminate more quickly around the globe – Moholy-Nagy relocated to Amsterdam, where he remained for two years, collaborating with De Stijl artists and experimenting with colour film and photography. His 1934 solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, was enormously influential.

All images courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

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2 Responses to “Exhibitions | When the Bauhaus went Dutch”

  1. Paul Dubsky says:

    Up to recently we lived in “White Walls” on the coast in county Wexford, Ireland (built 1933) in Bauhaus style. I have many photo images of the house and the built-in furniture.

    The house has been renovated by new owners.

    I am very interested in Bauhaus and would appreciate any contacts or leads to information about Dutch Pioneers or current events/exhibitions.

  2. PedroSilmon says:

    Hello Paul. Thanks for your comment. I’ve been a fan of the Dutch De Stijl group for many years. I’ve read a fair bit about them and have seen exhibitions about, or related to their work. As I said in my post, Van Doesburg and De Stijl modernised the Bauhaus.

    There’s lots of stuff on the internet about the Bauhaus

    A new museum dedicated to the Bauhaus is scheduled to open this year in Dessau, Germany

    Without De Stijl input I doubt whether the Bauhaus would have been as influential as it subsequently became. This exhibition at Tate Britain in 2010 was very interesting

    If you don’t know the Rietveld Shroeder house in Utrecht, you might like to visit it

    Eileen Gray, who was of Irish descent but lived in Paris built a De Stijl-influenced house in the South of France in 1927 that has been recently restored and opened to the public in 2018.

    I wasn’t previously aware of White Walls and would be interested to see the interior images you have. Would you mind sending me a link, or please email me a selection to

    Best wishes

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