Related Story: VIEW Kandinsky and the Bauhaus
From the Closer Look in the Art Institute of Chicago app, available for iOS devices through the iTunes Store.


Walter Gropius and various artists. BAUHAUS. Zeitschrift fur Gestaltung, 1929. Ada Turnbull Hertle Fund.

Kandinsky was an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, Germany’s state-sponsored school of art, architecture, and design founded by architect Walter Gropius in 1919. Attempting to dissolve the distinction between “fine” and “applied” arts, the school aimed to effect social change after the destruction and devastation of World War I. During its 14 years of existence, it was located in Weimar (1919–1925), Dessau (1925–1932), and Berlin (1932–1933). Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus from 1922 until 1933, alongside artists such as Josef and Anni Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, his old friend Paul Klee, and the American Lyonel Feininger, all represented by works in the Art Institute. The Nazis forced the closure of the school in 1933, four years prior to the opening of their notorious "Degenerate ‘Art’" exhibition, in which Kandinsky’s work was denigrated along with that of many former colleagues.


Vasily Kandinsky, Small Worlds V, 1922. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph R. Shapiro.

Kandinsky was an art theorist as well as an artist, and at the Bauhaus he taught basic design, art theory, painting, and color theory. In 1913, nine years before he would teach at the Bauhaus, he published Point and Line to Plane, an exploration of the basic forms of art and their relationship to non-objective, or abstract, work. The image above is a lithograph made in his first year as a teacher at the Bauhaus.


Walter Gropius and various artists. BAUHAUS. Zeitschrift fur Gestaltung, 1929. Ada Turnbull Hertle Fund.

Bauhaus educators believed that good design should permeate every aspect of modern life, from architecture to typography to furniture. Bauhaus principles were esposed in its periodical Bauhaus.


Josef Albers, Armchair, c. 1927. Bequest of Dr. Fritz Moellenhoff and Dr. Anna Moellenhoff.

Josef Albers was a close colleague of Kandinsky’s who was first a student at the Bauhaus and then joined the faculty the same year as Kandinsky. At the Bauhaus Albers taught stained glass, handicrafts, and furniture design. Albers emigrated to the United States in 1933, the year the Nazis closed the Bauhaus, and he became the director of Black Mountain College, a new art school in North Carolina.


Oskar Schlemmer, Abstract Figure, 1921. Wirt D. Walker Fund

Oskar Schlemmer taught at the Bauhaus from 1920 to 1929. While Kandinsky was invested in basic visual forms and their relationship to music, Schlemmer concerned himself with the form of the body and movement, heading the theater department at the Bauhaus from 1923 to 1929.


Paul Klee, Schoolhouse,1920. Gift of Mary and Leigh Block.

Paul Klee shared with Kandinsky a love of music, and both artists published influential treatises on form and color. Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook (1923) was intended as working notes for his Bauhaus instruction, and it is still available today. Klee taught at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1931.