Oskar Schlemmer

Unknown photographer, Portrait of Oskar Schlemmer, c. 1930
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

Unknown photographer, Portrait of Oskar Schlemmer, c. 1930
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

Oskar Schlemmer studied applied graphic design at a marquetry workshop in Stuttgart from 1903 to 1905. Between 1906 and 1910, he studied for one semester at the school of applied arts in Stuttgart and then received a scholarship to the city’s Akademie der bildende Künste (academy of art). In 1911/12, Schlemmer worked as a freelance painter in Berlin and made contact with Herwarth Walden’s gallery, Der Sturm. In 1912, he returned to Stuttgart and became one of Adolf Hölzel’s master students. In 1913/14, he opened and directed the Neuer Kunstsalon (new art salon) in the Neckartor district. Together with Willi Baumeister and Hermann Stenner, he designed murals for the main hall of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) exhibition in Cologne in 1914. From 1914 to 1918, he served in the war. In 1920, he produced his first figurines for the Triadic Ballet, which was first performed in Stuttgart in 1922.

In January 1921, Schlemmer was appointed by Walter Gropius as one of the first masters at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar. As a master of form, he initially directed the wall painting department (alternating with Johannes Itten) and the stone sculpture workshop, and he also taught life drawing. From 1922 to 1923, he directed the stone sculpture workshop, the wood sculpture workshop (and the metal workshop temporarily) as a master of form. He also continued to teach life drawing. For the Bauhaus exhibition held in Weimar in 1923, Schlemmer contributed significantly to the fields of wall design, painting, sculpture, print graphics, advertising and the stage. From 1923 to 1929, he was the head of the stage workshop at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau. In 1927/28, he taught figure drawing and offered his course Der Mensch (the human being) from 1928. Schlemmer was the director of the Bauhaus stage’s national tour in 1928/29. He left the Bauhaus on 11th July 1929.

From 1929 to 1932, Schlemmer held a professorship at the Staatliche Akademie für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe (state academy of art and applied art) in Breslau, where he directed the stagecraft class among others. This was followed in June 1932 by a professorship at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe (united state schools of art and applied art) in Berlin. After being summarily dismissed in May 1933, he moved to Switzerland, where he stayed until 1934. In 1937, a first solo exhibition of Schlemmer’s work was held at the London Gallery. Although Schlemmer became a member of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Culture Chamber), his work was denounced as “degenerate art”. In 1938, he worked at a store selling painters’ supplies in Stuttgart. In 1939/40, he was commissioned to camouflage barracks. In 1940, he set up a laboratory for lacquer technology trials at the lacquer factory of Kurt Herbert in Wuppertal where many of his colleagues, such as Willi Baumeister, Gerhard Marcks and Georg Muche, also worked.

Literature:
Stonard, John-Paul: Oskar Schlemmer's „Bauhaustreppe“, 1932, in: Burlington Magazine, H. 1276, 2009;
Kiefer, Jochen: Die Puppe als Metapher, den Schauspieler zu denken: Zur Ästhetik der theatralen Figur bei Craig, Meyerhold, Schlemmer und Roland Barthes, Berlin: Alexander Verlag, 2004; 
Louis, Eleonora (Hg.): Oskar Schlemmer. Tanz, Theater, Bühne, Schriftenreihe der Kunsthalle Wien, Klagenfurt: Ritterverlag, 1997;
Hüneke, Andreas (Hg.): Oskar Schlemmer. Idealist der Form. Briefe, Tagebücher, Schriften 1912-1943, Leipzig 1990;
Maur, Karin von: Oskar Schlemmer. Monographie, Stuttgart 1979.