Home to one of the first and largest collections devoted to the Bauhaus, Harvard Art Museums now has a new, online resource that makes it easier to navigate these holdings. Over 32,000 Bauhaus-related objects of a variety of media are now easily searchable through the Bauhaus Special Collection by keyword, title, artist, medium, date, and even a handful of themes, from “Typography” to “The Bauhaus in America” to the theater-focused “Stage.” Material from the museums’ archives supplement this trove, inviting exploration of related writings, photographs, and notes, including the personal papers of painter Lyonel Feininger.
For those not particularly familiar with the art and design school, a good place to start is the website’s simple but thorough timeline complete with visual aids that presents a good overview of its development during the Weimer Republic, from its founding in 1919 by Walter Gropius to its dissolution in 1933; it also traces the legacy of the movement and how Harvard’s own archive amassed, concluding with 1969, the year Gropius dies. And if you’re a Bauhaus aficionado, come on in, the water’s fine! — although the pool is pretty deep.
“The Busch-Reisinger Museum’s Bauhaus-related holdings make up nearly three-fourths of its total collection,” Lynette Roth, the museum’s Daimler Curator said in a statement. “In light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the school’s founding, we wanted to encourage the study of these collections and better understand the history and significance of Harvard’s own Bauhaus legacy.” Note that the holdings are described as “Bauhaus-related holdings”: many of the objects were not created at the Bauhaus, but are included as they were made by Bauhaus teachers and students both at and after their time at the school; others drew inspiration from Bauhaus pedagogy (explore these in the “Pedagogy” theme).
The collection emerges largely due to the efforts of Robert Wiesenberger, the museum’s 2014–16 Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow. Wiesenberger also penned an in-depth essay, “The Bauhaus and Harvard,” that explores the linked history of the school and the university, highlighting the impact various artists had on the campus, from Gropius — who headed the Graduate School of Design’s architecture department — in particular, to Josef and Anni Albers. The university also hosted the first US exhibition of the Bauhaus, organized in 1930 by undergraduates, which marked the only one to occur during the school’s 14-year lifespan. The website also examines the influence of Bauhaus beyond campus, featuring a Google Map that highlights institutions, archives, architectural points of interests, and other projects that were affiliated with the school in the Boston area.
As Roth said, the Bauhaus Special Collection is just one part of a larger endeavor to stir greater public engagement with Harvard’s Bauhaus collections. The museum is currently planning for a major exhibition of its holdings across the campus in 2019.