Introduction which later inspired Modernism and Art Decco. (Barlex,

 

 

Introduction

In this essay I will examine the quote ‘To
create one must first question everything’ and in relation to that how two art
movements had its differences and similarities, yet those holds true to its principles
and values to create a distinct style. The quote stated at first are the words
of this Irish architect and modernist designer Eileen Grey. She was a prominent
figure in modern architecture during the 20th Century. Eileen Gray began
her career as lacquer artist, then a furniture designer and finally as an
architect at which the industry was lead mostly by male designers who were
members of different movements such as De Stijl. But she remained independent
during this period (Espegel, C, 2007). She was known as ‘mother of modernism’
during late 1920’s and early 1930’s when she designed some of her best-known
furniture designs. (Barlex, D, 2007, p50) She was neglected for most of her
career and is now regarded as one of the most influential architect and
furniture designers in early 20th Century. Her works inspired many
artists which later inspired Modernism and Art Decco. (Barlex, D, 2007). Gray was viewed as a self-made
architect. In her words she said, “I started really by myself, sort of
making plans of buildings”(MacCarthy, 2005). Her architecture grown
without the training or the custom of the large office. Many of the famous artists
and architects have tried to teach us for many years is to not once underrate
the power of design. Eileen Grey was such artist who was multi-talented and
proven to be a game changer in the field of modern art and architecture.

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To understand the meaning and background
behind this quote I have chosen two modernist art movements Bauhaus and Cubism.
These two art movements have impacted art in iconic way which can be reflected
still now. There are two examples for each of these art forms. In Bauhaus art
movement I will be focusing on Bauhaus Dessau and how it influenced in shaping
the modernist environment. While in Cubism I will be focusing on a painting by
world famous painter Pablo Picasso and one of his iconic painting during his
African Period.

 

i) Bauhaus Building, Dessau – Bauhaus Art
Movement

 

 “The ultimate aim of all creative
activity is the building” Whitford (1993, p.38) The above quote is by Walter
Gropius in ‘The Bauhaus Manifesto’. The word Bauhaus, loosely translated from
German, mean House of Construction, or School of Building. The Bauhaus art
school was founded in 1919 in the city of Weimar by German architect Walter
Gropius (1883–1969). The Bauhaus building was commissioned by the city of
Dessau, a former municipality and currently a town in Germany. The building
construction was begun in autumn 1925, completed within one year and opened in
December 1926. The entire building occupies an area of about 28,300 square
feet, the volume is roughly 1,15,000 cubic feet. The furnishing cost of the
building was around 126,200 marks. While the total cost counted to 902,500 marks
which is approximately $230,000.00, which is roughly around twenty cents per
cubic foot. Gropius et al. (1999). The reason why I chose Bauhaus Dessau building
architecture as the prime example for this essay is because it qualifies as one
of the earliest modernist architecture while rejecting many of the usual
techniques in that time to construct a building. It was this design of Walter
Gropius which changed the architecture scene around that time and paved a way
to modern architecture which we are used to now.

 

The building is consisted of –

a) Studio Wing

b) Auditorium, stage and dining hall.

c) Laboratory Workshop

d) Bridge (Administration Offices)

e) Technical School

 

Bauhaus building in Dessau has spectacular
features which makes it unique with a futuristic message from the past. Some of
them are of suspended glass facades, exposed steel gridding and asymmetrical
layout, with the three-wing complex makes it modern during this time while when
it was completed in 1926, it was downright alien concept. (Wilder,C, 2016) Bauhaus Building – found the perfect atmosphere for
designing models for engineering mass production.

The main objective of Bauhaus was
a radical idea: to reinvent the physical world to reflect the unity of all the
arts. Gropius has described this vision for a blending of art and design in the
Proclamation of the Bauhaus (1919), which described a utopian craft guild
combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative
expression. Gropius developed a craft-based curriculum that would turn out
artisans and designers capable of creating useful and beautiful objects
appropriate to this new system of living.

In Bauhaus manifesto Walter has stated the
decoration building was once the honourable purpose of the fine arts, and the
fine arts which was essential for great architecture, but today they merely exist
and are in complete separation where they can be rescued only by mindful
support and relationship of all craftsmen. Architects, sculptors and painters
must come forward and understand the compound character of a building together
as an object and its various fragments Whitford (1993).

During twentieth century architectural
movements have produced many iconic landmarks buildings with much historical significance
which is still relevant and discussed up on and while further examining, one
can gain more understandings into modernism of mid twentieth century. In the
book 20th century classics (Sharp.D, 1999)
among Bauhaus Dessau and other two Architectural marvels namely Unite
d’Habitation, Marseilles and Salk Institute, LA Jolla, California are further
explored in-depth. These three buildings have the same mission and a sense of
urgency that modernism wanted to convey. The artists with such an inclination
for Bauhaus are called “Master of Form”. (Architects and Designers,
2016) Bauhaus building as it is known was started building during the autumn of
1925 and completed in 1926. The Bauhaus intends to train architects, sculptors
and painters of all level of achievement and ability as thorough craftsmen or
self-determining creative artists, and to find a working community of
outstanding artist craftsmen and students who knows to create and give
spiritual accord to buildings in their entirety from building their basic
construction to their merging finishing, decoration and furnishing Whitford
(1993).

 

Its vital objective was a radical concept: to
reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. One
of the distinct feature of this building it expresses the modernist style while
rejecting symmetry and frontispiece façade. (The Museum of Modern Art, 1975, p.
100). Walter Gropius explained this vision for a union of art
and design in the Proclamation of the Bauhaus (1919), which defined a utopian
craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single
creative expression. (The Bauhaus Movement, 2016)

Fagus shoe-last factory

Along with his other works, one fine example
of Walter Gropius marvellous design was of the Fagus shoe-last factory, Alfred-an
der- Leine, 1911, it was designed with Adolf Meyer. It was one of the earliest
modern industrial buildings during that period. (Whitford,F, 1993) To build Bauhaus
Dessau building Walter Gropius may have took inspiration from the design of
Fagus shoe factory as we examine further into these two iconic structures. As
both buildings are used for different purposes, main entrance and window area
of these two looks very similar even they are placed both in different direction.
The main difference is that the Fagus shoe-last factory has the presence of
chimney and warehouse next to it, while Bauhaus building doesn’t have it. Gropius (1919) has stated earlier that they wanted to create a purely organic structure, boldly originating its inner laws, free of fabrications or ornamentation. Thus, we can see the buildings
designed by him and his students mostly have followed this concept.

 

ii) Brick Factory at Tortosa – Cubism Art
Movement

 

Cubism is an avant-garde (boundary pushing)
art movement which most often considered to be the pivotal art movement during
the 20th Century (Antliff, 2001, P.7) One of the primary influence that led to
Cubism was the representation of three-dimensional form in the late works of
Paul Cézanne. Cubist painters rejected the
old practice of art copying nature and tested techniques of perspective and
modelling. It later led to many other art movements such as futurism, dada, Art
Deco to name a few. During 1907 and 1909 was the early period of cubist
movement with the context of primitivist modernism which was later embraced by
future cubists and avant-gardists. (Antliff, 2001).

 

Regarding cubism Picasso once said –

“When
we discovered Cubism, we did not have the aim of discovering Cubism. We only
wanted to express what was in us. The goal I proposed myself in making cubism?
To paint and nothing more, with a method linked only to my thought, Neither the
good nor the true; neither the useful nor the useless.” – (Picasso,
nd)

 

During Picasso’s African period, in 1909 he
painted Brick Factory at Tortosa (L’Usine, Horta de Ebro) which is an Oil on
canvas painting with dimensions of 62 cm x 51 cm. It is now located in The
State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia. It’s considered as Proto
cubist work of Picasso. While looking at the picture itself you can find it
looks really cubist with little cubes forming into different shapes. At first
you will notice its location is on a hilltop, dry terrains with no grass from
which we understand it’s on a dry land. While examining other shapes you can
see a chimney, factory and small buildings next to it, along with some palm
trees. In this painting the main colours used are bright yellow, green, orange
and light grey. One of the striking feature of this painting is all the cubes
are interconnected as there is little or no gap at all. This method of painting
was started by Picasso and Cézanne, but it was Cézanne who started before him
in interlocking these cubes.

It makes the viewer feel that the colours in
each cube moves into each other forming into different shape such as a house,
shop factory etc. which makes it an optical phenomenon. Further exploring, you
will notice that the reflections and shadows near the entrance door at the
factory are as solid as the colour of the main objects. (Smarthistory. art,
history, conversation, 2009)

Factory at Horto De Ebro (Brick Factory at
Tortosa) again draws greatly from Cézanne both in colour and form. One of the
most noticeable distinguishing is however the way in which Picasso has
successfully handle the topographical features of the landscape. The chimney
that look in the background is, in fact, nowhere evident in Horta. Rather it
signifies a chimney used for burning olive waste, situated away from the
village, Similarly, Picasso has encompassed palm trees in this work, though no
such trees grew in or near the village. Picasso has simply introduced these
objects to serve the compositional structure of the work.  

Viaduct at
L’Estaque

 

Further into Piccasso’s painting
there is another painting worth looking into which has similar  attributes of Brick Factory at Tortosa (1909), that is of Georges
Braqu’s Viaduct at L’Estaque (1908). This
painting features a bridge and few houses surrounded by trees set in a cloudy
day. It was painted just after Cézanne died, Braque went down to standard in
almost a kind of homage and began just to work over Cézanne style in his late
paintings. Analytic cubism was the main technique used in this particular
painting.
Analytic Cubism
was characterized by analysing objects into components and, most importantly
for this piece of art, in lieu of numerous viewpoints at once. You can see viaduct in many
of Cézanne’s early works. It has also the same pallet and the hatching
brushwork that has featured in many of Cézanne’s paintings.  The buildings in the foreground seem to in a
way, crest up and back, so that the viaduct in background and the houses. It
feels like there’s no middle ground and there are rectangles and triangles
shapes without any circular shape. The colours are very much the colours of
analytic cubism, grey’s and brown. (Smarthistory. art, history, conversation,
2011) If you look further closely into the painting, you can see few subtle
undertones which makes the viewer the puzzled which is also in a way an optical
phenomenon which was previously mentioned in Picasso’s Brick Factory at Tortosa.

 

While Bauhaus and Cubism may have its
similarities and differences but when I look into my personal works, I think
there are few elements of these art movements that have influenced me, As I
work in multimedia and graphics I have done my works primarily in 3d
visualization, along with graphic design. In this 3d art work my client asked
me to have design an interior of car show room by keeping it simple, with a
modern style as they wanted to launch their latest model car into the market
that year. The influence of Bauhaus can be seen on this particular work as it
has followed the basic thoughts like free of fabrications or ornamentation
making it simplistic.

 

Conclusion

The similarities and differences between
Bauhaus Dessau and Brick Factory at Tortosa are very striking, as one can
observe both structures are in different forms, one is an actual building and
other is a fictional painting which are conceived by well architect and artist.
Both has their own unique purpose for this world. Both are admired by many
people around the world. One of the major difference we can notice is where
they both are based up on, as previously mentioned Brick factory at tortosa was
based on African primitive setting and the location he chose was of rural side
but covered in some greenery whereas Bauhaus Dessau building was built in a
town centre which arises the conflict of rural and urban themes. Both have
different objectives, one is to serve the society with a new art school and the
other one is of helping industrialize their rural area, while the other one is
a fictional painting., But the message it conveys is what it matters the most.

In response to the Eileen gray’s ‘To create
one must first question everything’ quote, which is much relevant today. It is important
in creating a particular artwork before to begin by questioning the rationale behind
it, because by questioning only we find answers and even more questions with
the possibility of discovering many unknown facts, this is why it makes an art valuable. There
is an impression deep-rooted in the design profession that using a computer
early in the design process is predefining the designed output. However, this
is not true, as this is not connection between computer, pencil or brush. These
are just tools used in our process. Regardless of the tools we choose, to start
our design method, the design is driven and navigated by the mind behind the
process. So as earlier mentioned in gray’s quote that one must question everything
before creation, to question the idea of a drawing, of the course of sketching
and so on. So, by questioning the idea that one must design and sketch free of
modern technology. (Engel, 2017)