Loans to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Het Nieuwe Instituut has loaned a large number of important works to the exhibition netherlands <> bauhaus – pioneers of a new world, which opens at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen on 9 February. The exhibition explores the periods before, during and after the glory years of the Bauhaus and charts the network between the Netherlands and the world-famous school, and vice versa. More than seventy objects from the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning at Het Nieuwe Instituut are moving temporarily to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, including works by Johan Niegeman (1902-1977), Cornelis van Eesteren (1897-1988), Mathieu Lauweriks (1864-1932) and Lotte Stam-Beese (1903-1988).
This year is the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, the innovative and revolutionary art, design and architecture school established in 1919 by Walter Gropius (1883-1969). Gropius envisioned a place where artists and craftsmen from a range of disciplines could work together with a shared spirit. After the First World War (1914-18), artists sought to rebuild a new world, using the idea of the ‘gesamtkunstwerk’. The Bauhaus had a non-conformist, experimental and international atmosphere. Teachers and students alike could experiment freely with diverse art forms, including painting, design, architecture, theatre and photography . The aim of the new school was to raise industrial design to the same level as painting and architecture. Its designs were progressive and optimistic, which contributed to the school’s attraction.
Eight Dutch students enrolled to study at the Bauhaus and three Dutch designers taught there. The majority returned to the Netherlands following the closure of the Bauhaus in 1933 and established workshops or independent architecture and/or design practices. Gradually the inspiration that had shaped the Bauhaus was less directly visible, but it was still to be found in various designs and in ideas about education. For example, furniture designed by ‘students of students’ of the Bauhaus were stocked until 1969 at De Bijenkorf. The Rotterdam branch of this department store was designed by a former Bauhäusler: Marcel Breuer (1902-1981).
Inspiration for the Bauhaus
The Bauhaus was not the first institute to stimulate and propagate the fusion of different crafts. The Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen) was established in 1907 to promote partnerships between architects, artists and industry. Like the Bauhaus, the Werkbund was an important link in the development of modern architecture and industrial design. Initially its aim was to create partnerships between design professionals and manufacturers in order to improve Germany’s competitiveness in the international market. Dutch members of the Deutscher Werkbund included the designers Matthieu Lauweriks (1864-1932) and Johan Thorn Prikker (1886-1932). For the exhibition, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has borrowed various objects by these designers to show the Dutch-German network prior to the establishment of the Bauhaus. They include two exhibition designs for the Deutscher Werkbund by Lauweriks: for the Ausstellung für Christliche Kunst (Exhibition of Christian Art) in Düsseldorf in 1909 and for the Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe (German Museum for Art in Trade and Industry) in 1914.
Approaches to education
Long after the closure of the Bauhaus in 1933, the school’s alternative approaches to education and revolutionary ideas were adopted by other institutions. The ideas of a Vorkurs (preliminary course) and workshop-based education, for example, were taken up by the Instituut voor Kunstnijverheid Onderwijs (Institute for Applied Arts Education, IvKNO) in Amsterdam in 1924. Inspired by the Bauhaus, Johan Niegeman taught a preparatory course that united theory and practical exercises. The first-year students learned the basic elements and principles of design and colour theory, and experimented with a broad range of materials and techniques. This course, which each student had to complete before being allowed to choose a specialised workshop, was an inspiration to many later design and architecture schools.
Among the loans to Museum Boijmans van Beuningen are sixteen artworks made between 1940 and 1950 by students of Niegeman, who was head of the interior architecture department at the IvKNO from 1939 to 1955. The exercises include colour studies, interior designs and geometric forms and experiments with a wide variety of materials, such as rope, paint, charcoal, pencil and different kinds of paper.
The exhibition also features a work entitled Japanisches Fest (Japanese Party) by Lotte Stam-Beese, who studied at the Bauhaus from 1926 to 1929. She had convinced her parents that this was the perfect school for her, precisely because of its international and non-conformist character. Japanisches Fest is a colourful collage with decorative, Japanese elements. It has been restored and newly framed specially for the exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Stam-Beese probably made this work in the class of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), who taught at the Bauhaus from 1923 to 1933.During her studies at the Bauhaus, Stam-Beese developed a romantic attachment to Hannes Meyer (1889-1954), director of the school from 1928 and 1930 and also a married man. Because such a relationship was not tolerated, even at a school as free as the Bauhaus, Stam-Beese was asked to leave. In the years that followed, she remained loyal to the principles of the Bauhaus. In the Soviet Union in 1933, she re-encountered Mart Stam (1966-1986), who was a guest lecturer at the Bauhaus during her time there, and they married a year later. With the lessons from the Bauhaus in the back of her mind, after the Second World War she worked as an urban planner on the design of several housing estates as part of Rotterdam’s post-war reconstruction .
The exhibition features many designs by Mart Stam, who was the director of the IvKNO in Amsterdam from 1939 to 1960. He was strongly influenced by the Functionalist and socially critical ideas of the Bauhaus. This is evident from, among other things, his archive of press clippings: he pasted photographs and newspaper cuttings onto pieces of brown cardboard as a kind of mood board avant la lettre.
The Congrès internationaux d'architecture moderne (CIAM) was founded in 1928. Until 1959, this international collective of modernist architects organised a series of congresses and events that aimed to spread the principles of Functionalism within various design disciplines such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and industrial design. The CIAM was a dynamic organisation whose members included the founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, and the Dutch urban planner and architect Cornelis van Eesteren (1897-1988). Because of his influential position, Van Eesteren was appointed chairman of the CIAM in 1930.
In 1935, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam devoted an exhibition to the CIAM in relation with its fourth congress, whose theme was The Functional City. For the first time in the history of modern urban planning, this exhibition presented a general and accessible picture of the concept of ‘the city’. Het Nieuwe Instituut has loaned several items relating to the fourth CIAM congress and the exhibition, including catalogues and brochures, most from the personal archive of Van Eesteren. The exhibition at Boijmans also includes the invitation sent to Piet Zwart (1885-1977) for a lecture at the Stedelijk Museum in 1935. The most striking loans, however, are concertina-folded books related to the fourth CIAM congress, filled with texts, analyses, drawings and photographs that show how urban-planning issues were addressed at the time.
Het Nieuwe Instituut is commemorating the Bauhaus centenary in a completely different way in 2019. Rather than focussing on the objects and designs created at the Bauhaus, Het Nieuwe Instituut is focussing on new forms of knowledge. Knowledge that comes from marginalised or unrecognised cultures, but above all knowledge that does not restrict itself to human desires and needs and that is not focussed solely on productivity and efficiency. Knowledge, therefore, that breaks through the limitations of traditional analysis, knowledge that lives in plants, animals and machines, and knowledge that appeals not only to rational thought but also to the body and all the senses. In Neuhaus, Het Nieuwe Instituut is transformed into a temporary hybrid of school, museum and archive, where the concepts of knowledge and education are explored afresh and even reinvented, and which functions as a generator of new ways of producing, visualising and sharing knowledge. The Bauhaus’s DNA forms the building blocks for Neuhaus: a gesamtkunstwerk in the form of a school where academics, scholars and interested members of the public can design, explore ideas, philosophise, debate, exchange knowledge and build the future together.
The exhibition netherlands <> bauhaus – pioneers of a new world is at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from 9 February to 26 May 2019.