Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy, Farkas Molnár: DIE BUHNE IM BAUHAUS. Munich: Albert Langen Verlag, 1924 [Bauhausbücher 4]. First edition. Text in German. Slim quarto. Yellow cloth stamped with red. Black endpapers. 88 pp. Multiple paper stocks. One printed vellum overlay. One color plate. One fold out lithographed in full color. Letterpressed text and illustrations with elaborate graphic design throughout by Moholy-Nagy. Yellow cloth typically soiled with cloth spine perished. Interior bright and clean. Structurally sound, but a good copy.
Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy served as Editorial Directors for the 14 titles in the Bauhausbücher [Bauhaus Book] series published in Dessau from 1925 to 1929. The series served as an extension of the Bauhaus teaching tradition with volumes by Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Adolf Meyer, Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy or as as anthologies of work produced by a select group of contemporaries such as Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, J. J. P. Oud, Kasimir Malewitsch and Albert Gleizes.
Prior to the 20th century, when artists were called upon to illustrate texts or provide posters for advertising, their function was to provide visual images that bore no formal relationship to the message. In other words, the illustration was simply a diversion.
More than any other group, the expositional, programmatic set of Bauhaus Bücher engineers one of the most consistently remarkable episodes in the history of the art of the book. A series of 14 volumes (1925–1930) edited by Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy, the books rigorously demonstrate format as a systematic support of content and are discussed in Jan Tschichold’s classic and influential Die Neue Typograhie of 1928. In the Bauhaus Books the precepts and sense of content are palpably clear in the logic and decisions of design and format. Content is not so much conveyed by as in the carefully considered means and methods of presentation. Nowhere is the book more completely accomplished as a mental instrument; form and content virtually assume the operation of a mathematical proposition, arriving at a language in which everything formal belongs to syntax and not to vocabulary.
The Bauhaus Bücher series serve as testaments to the graphic design pioneered at the Bauhaus by Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer. The layout of the pages designed by Moholy-Nagy—bold sans-serif captions floating in white space; compositions composed of arrows, dots and heavy ruled lines—is much more like a movie storyboard or a musical score.
. . . typography is an instrument of communication. It has to be clear communication in the most penetrating form. Clarity must be particularly emphasized since this is the essence of our writing as compared with pictorial communication of ages ago. Our intellectual approach to the world is individually precise in contrast to the former individually and later collectively amorphous. Foremost, therefore: absolute clarity in all typographical works. Legibility—communication, that is, must never suffer from a priori assumed aesthetics. The letter types must never be squeezed into a pre-determined form. — László Moholy-Nagy, 1923
Bauhausbücher 4 remains a landmark study of Bauhaus stagecraft. Although the name "Bauhaus" primarily connotes advances in architecture, this volume reinforces how much Bauhaus experimentation in stage design and theory prefigured the advances of twentieth-century theatre. This volume features illustrated essays by Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy, and Farkas Molnár; and includes illustrations by Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy, Farkas Molnár, Marcel Breuer, Alexander [Xanti] Schawinsky, Kurt Schmidt, F. W. Bogler, and Georg Teltscher.
Bauhausbücher 4 also includes the 22.25 x 8.25 accordion folded color lithograph “Partiturskizze zu einer Mechanischen Exzentrik” by László Moholy-Nagy. His “Sketch for a Score for a Mechanized Eccentric” is a “synthesis of form, motion, sound, light [color], and odor.”
The text is a loose collection of essays by Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Farkas Molnár, who shares his vision of a total theatre space. While each essay develops specific ideas about theatre practice, it is the common themes of form and space that tie this volume together. So dominant are these themes that scarcely a page goes by without reference to one or the other. While this is a subject that has been explored by theatre visionaries like Adolphe Appia, the stage work at the Bauhaus framed the question of spatial relationships in an extremely unique manner. In Appia's world, humans may be the measure of all things, but at the Bauhaus the human form relinquished its Appian centrality to be placed on equal footing with all elements of theatre: light, sound, movement, form, color, and shape.
Oskar Schlemmer [Germany, 1888 – 1943] developed his Triadisches Ballett during his tenure as Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop. The stylized and wildly popular performance featured actors who transformed into geometrical shapes. The Ballett toured from 1922 until 1929 and helped spread the Bauhaus ethos throughout Europe.
After his experiences in the First World War, Schlemmer began to conceive the human body as a new artistic medium. He saw ballet and pantomime as free from the historical baggage of theatre and opera and thus able to present his ideas of choreographed geometry, man as dancer, transformed by costume, moving in space.
Schlemmer considered the movement of puppets and marionettes as aesthetically superior to that of humans, as it emphasised the artificial nature of every artistic medium.
Oskar Schlemmer was invited to Weimar in 1920 by Gropius to run the Bauhaus' sculpture department and stage workshop. He became internationally known with the premiere of his "Triadisches Ballett" in Stuttgart in 1922 . . . . Schlemmer spent the years 1928 to 1930 working on nine murals for the Folkwang Museum in Essen. After Gropius' resignation in 1929, Schlemmer also left the Bauhaus and accepted a post at the Akademie in Breslau. He was given a professorship at the "Vereinigte Staatsschulen" in Berlin in 1932, but the National Socialists forced him to resign in 1933. During the war, Schlemmer worked at the "Institut für Malstoffe" in Wuppertal . . . . He led a secluded life at the end of his career and made the small series of eighteen mystical "Fensterbilder" in 1942.