Essay On 20th Century Design Bauhaus

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20th Century Design Bauhaus

The Bauhaus also known as the Staatliches Bauhaus was an art school situated in Germany that combined fine arts as well as the crafts. This school was significantly famous for the move towards design which it both taught and publicized[ Crouch, Christopher, Modernism in Art Design and Architecture, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), p. 63. ]. The Bauhaus school which means ‘building house’ was initially founded by Walter Groupius in 1919 at Weimar. The term Bauhaus means, “house of construction” and was founded with the notion of “total” work of art. The movement was set on embracing the 20th century culture of using machines where buildings and design were accomplished in a utilitarian way. It encouraged the embracing of modern technology. The syllabus taught focused on both artistry and crafts a connection between theory and practice. The understanding of basic design was paramount with principles of craftsmanship, composition and color theory. It is a significant understatement to state that the current state of the graphic design industry tends to owe a lot to the Bauhaus movement.

The works of art included architecture which would eventually be bridged and the Bauhaus style with time became one of the most influential currents in contemporary design[ Friedman, Julia, Beyond Symbolism and Surrealism: Alexei Remizov’s Synthetic Art, (USA: Northwestern University Press, 2010), p. 155.]. The Bauhaus had a reflective influence upon the succeeding developments in architecture, art, interior design, typography, industrial design and graphic design. Another interesting fact about the Bauhaus is that, the continuous changes in leadership and venue also resulted in an unvarying shift of focus, politics, and techniques. For instance, the pottery shop was terminated when the school was moved from Weimer to Dessau; this was so even though the pottery shop was an important source of revenue

[ Hylton, Stuart, The Grand Experiment: The Birth of the Railway Age, (USA: Ian Allan Publishing, 2007), p. 45.].

This paper discusses the extent to which designers and artists realized their aims of social improvement through art and design during the first three decades of the 20th Century as well as movements such as Supermatism, Constructivism, the Bauhaus and early modern movement in architecture.

Artists and designers during the first three decades of the 20th century were influenced by modernism in realizing their aims of social improvement through art and design. Modernism refers to the philosophical movement by which, along with various cultural changes and trends arose from far reaching and also a wide scale revolutions in the western society during the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century[ Irvin, Mark, Amirsadeghi, Hossein and Anthony Downey, Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art. (London: Thames and Hudson, 2009), p. 50.]. Modernism generally includes the various creations and activities of the artists who felt that the long-established designs of art, social organization, architecture, religious faith, literature the sciences, philosophy and also the activities of daily lives were becoming ill-fitted to their respective tasks. As such, they felt significantly obsolete in the new social, economic as well as political environment of an up-coming industrialized world[ Lewis, Pericles, The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 101.]. Some notable traits of modernism are self-consciousness which often led to the conducting of various experiments with form. This was also coupled up with utilization of procedures that showed the materials and processes utilized in the creation of poems, building, and also painting.
Modernism to a great extent discards the principles of realism and thus makes use of past works by employing incorporation, replication, parody, rewriting, reprise and revision. Some people however define modernism as a type of mode of thinking. This means that it is basically one or more philosophically defined traits, for instance, self-reference or rather, self-consciousness which tends to run across all the novelties in the disciplines and the arts[ Nochlin, Linda, Women Artists at the Millennium, (New York: MIT Press, 2006), p. 24.]. Modernism may also be considered as a thought which simply avows the power of humans to improve, reshape as well as improve their respective environments with the assistance of practical experimentation, technology, and scientific knowledge. Many artists felt the need to encompass the novel ways of living along with their various works of art. Indeed, by the year 1930, modernism had penetrated pop culture. This was influenced by the ever increasing urbanization and population; it started to be envisioned as the source of various ideas. Modernism provided a platform to deal with social norms and day to day activities in order to better deal with challenges

[ Pollock, Griselda, Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive, London: Routledge, 2007, p. 13.].

Pop culture was derived from its own specific realities especially in mass production which had the propensity to fuel myriad modernist innovation rather than high culture. These said modern ideas appeared in various logos and commercials. The illustrious London Underground logo was an early example, easily memorable and recognizable visual symbols. Another example of the extent to which artists and designers realized their aims of social improvement through design and art is the embracing of modern production in their day to day life[ Sheppard, Richard, Modernism-Dada-Postmodernism, (USA: Northwestern University Press, 2000), p. 99.]. It is also important to note that the invention of electricity, the automobile and the telephone also necessitated the need for artists and designers to incorporate them in their lives; this was the period whereby the adoption of objects was also visible. Due to the aforementioned, the need for the development of new forms of social life and values were developed so as to keep up with the ever increasing demand for modern works of art.

A number of movements have taken place over the years with regards to art and design during the 20th Century. A movement refers to a prevailing inclination or style in both art and design; this more often than not, tends to uphold a specific ideal or philosophy and as such, is followed as well as promoted by an assemblage of artists for a given period of time[ Ibid, p. 64.].The supermatism movement is the first movement which had a pure geometrical abstraction with regards to painting. It has its origins from an artist known as Kazimir Malevich in Russia in the year 1913. Suffice to say that the latter’s first supermatist work was a pencil drawing of a black square in a white field. Supermatism usually takes the illustration of objective representation which is a distinct Russian offshoot. The representation blends futurism as well as cubism. According to various artists, the fitting means of representation has the aptitude to give the fullest possible expression to feeling and also tends to ignore the familiar appearance of objects

[ Ibid.].

The constructivism movement is another Russian architectural and artistic movement which was initially influenced by both futurism and cubism. This type of movement and term is frequently used in contemporary art today. It dismissed pure art in favor of art which is utilized as an instrument for social rationales, for instance, the construction of the socialist system[ Ibid, p. 47.]. The expression, “construction art”, was originally used as a contemptuous term by Kazimir Malevich in order to describe the works of Alexander Rodchenko in the year 1917. Due to their love for technology and machines, functionalism as well as contemporary industrial materials including steel, glass and plastic bags, the artists and designers came to be known as artistic engineers.

The early modern movement in architecture is a term applied to a sort of overarching movement which precise definition is widely varying. It is mostly used to the myriad modernist movements which were observed at the turn of the 20th Century[ Ibid.]. This was executed with the efforts to bring together the principles underlying architectural design coupled up with rapid modernization of society and technological advancements. Some characteristics included clarity and simplicity of forms, the utilization of industrially produced materials and the flowing of forms.

The Bauhaus movement shaped the 19th and 20th centuries trends in art and craft designs and was characterized by many influential artists who reunited creativity and manufacturing. A number of these artists included; Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers and Johannes Itten. Marcel Breuer is well known for the design and innovation of materials used in the “The Wassily Chair” a design that significantly made the Bauhaus famous in 1925. The design adopted modernism through ease of mass production and the use of new materials including seamless steel that endures physical tension. It consisted of components arranged with affluence of clarity making it lightweight and easily moved.

The Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany known as the Gropius’s complex is a landmark in functionalist design[ Droste, Magdalena. Bauhaus, 1919-1933. Köln: B. Taschen, 1998. ]. The design by Walter Gropius constructed between 1919 and 1925 consists of clear divided elements that unfold in successive changing perspectives. The tiled roof, concrete bricks, steel framework and glass curtain wall allows ample lighting and expresses modern architecture. The building consists of three asymmetrically arranged wings showing the school’s functionality at the same time retaining its elegance and beauty. These are a number of examples that show how artists and designers in the 20th century realized their aim of social improvement through their work.


Crouch, Christopher. Modernism in Art Design and Architecture. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
Droste, Magdalena. Bauhaus, 1919-1933. Köln: B. Taschen, 1998.
Friedman, Julia. Beyond Symbolism and Surrealism: Alexei Remizov’s Synthetic Art. USA: Northwestern University Press, 2010.
Hylton, Stuart. The Grand Experiment: The Birth of the Railway Age. USA: Ian Allan Publishing, 2007.
Irvin, Mark, Amirsadeghi, Hossein and Anthony Downey. Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 2009.
Lewis, Pericles. The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Nochlin, Linda. Women Artists at the Millennium. New York: MIT Press, 2006.
Pollock, Griselda. Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive. London: Routledge, 2007.
Sheppard, Richard. Modernism-Dada-Postmodernism. USA: Northwestern University Press, 2000.