Oskar Schlemmer Ballet Artwork, Bauhaus and Biography

Oskar Schlemmer

Oskar Schlemmer born 4 September 1888 (died in 13 April 1943) was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school. He was one of the most versatile all-rounders of the last century and as unusual as a painter as he was as a sculptor, draughtsman, graphic artist, stage designer, wall designer, creator of epochal dance projects and author. His vision was the “new” man living in functional architecture, thinking clearly and acting clearly in the modern age which would never again sink into the chaos of war.

Schlemmer retrospective for almost forty years presents over 250 high-quality works, in particular the seven original costumes of the Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) together with rare documents of the time. The connection between the all-encompassing attempts at reform of the Bauhaus are discussed as well as Schlemmer’s vain attempts to reconcile his “unpolitical” art with the Nazi dictatorship’s ideas of state-controlled art. The focus will be directed towards Schlemmer’s lofty ethical demands, which always regarded man, typified as a “Kunstfigur” (artistic figure) as the “measure of all things”.

In 1923 he was hired as Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop, after working some time at the workshop of sculpture. His most famous work is "Triadisches Ballett," in which the actors are transfigured from the normal to geometrical shapes. Also in Slat Dance and Treppenwitz, the performers' costumes make them into living sculpture, as if part of the scenery.

In 1919 Schlemmer turned to sculpture and had an exhibition of his work at the Gallery Der Sturm in Berlin. After his marriage to Helena Tutein in 1920, Schlemmer was invited to Weimar by Walter Gropius to run the mural-painting and sculpture departments at the Bauhaus School before heading up the theater workshop in 1923.

His complex ideas were influential, making him one of the most important teachers working at the school at that time. However, due to the heightened political atmosphere in Germany at the end of the 1920s, and in particular with the appointment of the radical communist architect Hannes Meyer as Gropius's successor, in 1929 Schlemmer resigned his position and moved to take up a job at the Art Academy in Breslau.

Schlemmer became known internationally with the première of his 'Triadisches Ballett' in Stuttgart in 1922. His work for the Bauhaus and his preoccupation with the theatre are an important factor in his work, which deals mainly with the problematic of the figure in space.

People, typically stylised faceless female figures, continued to be the predominant subject in his painting. While at Bauhaus, he developed the multidisciplinary course "Der Mensch (The human being)." In the human form he saw a measure that could provide a foothold in the disunity of his time. After using Cubism as a springboard for his structural studies, Schlemmer's work became intrigued with the possibilities of figures and their relationship to the space around them, for example 'Egocentric Space Lines' (1924).

Oskar Schlemmer's characteristic forms can be seen in his sculptures as well as his paintings. Yet he also turned his attention to stage design, first getting involved with this in 1929, executing settings for the opera 'Nightingale' and the ballet 'Renard' by Igor Stravinsky.

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