An art historian offers six largely flattering portraits of key members of the famed Bauhaus group that flourished in Germany in the 1920s, then died when the Nazis enforced their own definitions of art and its functions.
Weber (Le Corbusier: A Life, 2008, etc.) profiles some of the most iconic figures in modern-art history, including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, who, the author demonstrates, were fine friends, not rivals. The journey begins with Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school, and this section provides the rough structure for the subsequent ones. General comments about his significance segue into a biographical sketch and a detailed examination of his career at the Bauhaus, followed by another quick summary of the subject’s post-Bauhaus career and death. Weber quotes liberally from correspondence, provides a wealth of illustrations and offers his running assessment of each person’s contributions to art history. The author clearly admires—even reveres—these six figures. Klee “brought the liberating spirit of surrealism to the Bauhaus”; Kandinsky “altered the course of world art.” Weber reserves his most intimate praise for Josef and Anni Albers, whom he befriended late in their lives and whose eponymous charitable foundation he now directs. The author, in fact, was the executor of Anni’s will, and relates an uncomfortable anecdote about the odd pleasure he took in informing actor Maximilian Schell that Anni had excluded him from mention or bequest. In the final 200 pages Weber adopts the first-person voice, becoming a character in the story.
A rigorously researched and often fascinating history that morphs into memoir.