Shining a spotlight on women artists in Pioneers: William Morris and the Bauhaus

01/08/2019

As with the Arts & Crafts movement, women artists were instrumental in the early success of the Bauhaus - but their contribution has often been overlooked. Pioneers: William Morris and the Bauhaus - which will bring together key works from both movements - will have a particular focus on the women Bauhauslers and their role in shaping design history.

When the Bauhaus opened in 1919, there were more women students than men. In theory, their education should have been equal—the constitution of the newly-formed Weimar Republic granted women equal rights and the school’s founder, Walter Gropius, pledged that there would be "no difference between the beautiful and the strong sex". Yet, as this problematic phrase suggests, the women who enrolled at the school quickly found that they were not granted the same privileges as their male counterparts. There were higher admission standards for women and they were discouraged from entering the more "masculine" workshops, leaving few options other than weaving.

Among the women for whom textiles was a second and initially unwelcome choice were Annie Albers and Gunta Stölzl. Originally hoping to enter the glass painting or wall painting workshop, Stölzl instead turned her talents to weaving, ultimately becoming the Bauhaus’s only female master in 1926. The exhibition will highlight Stölzl’s designs alongside woven hangings by her contemporary Benita Koch Otte, with whom she pioneered new forms and techniques in the largely self-taught years of the Weimar Bauhaus.

The pioneering atmosphere of the weaving workshop was mirrored in the ceramics workshop, based in the small town of Dornburg, 20km outside of Weimar. Marguerite Friedländer Wildenhain was one of the most talented Bauhauslers to learn from master potter Max Krehan. Writing many years later, Wildenhain recalled Krehan’s advice: "If you can make the pot any bit better, do so!" She explained that "To make my pot the very best way I could, at all times, became the motto of my life". We're delighted to showcase several examples of Wildenhain’s work on loan from Gerhard Marcks Haus, Bremen.

Image: Gunta Stölzl, Design for a hanging, 1927 © DACS 2019 / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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