Resurrecting the work of gifted craftswomen, too long denied their place as pioneers in their field, Women's Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus unearths a missing chapter in the story of the most important institution in the history of modern design.
The Bauhaus defined modern design in the twentieth century. As the preeminent design phenomenon of the era, almost every aspect of it has been minutely examined. Yet the Weaving Workshop, the longest standing and most successful of all Bauhaus workshops, has been neglected for one simple reason: when the first wave of brilliantly talented women arrived at the school, they soon discovered that Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius could not sustain his ringing declaration of equality between "the beautiful and the strong gender." Textiles, in the hierarchy of art and design, were to be "women's work."
Their results, however, were remarkable, both in the early days of artistic expression in Weimar and in later developments in the textile industry. The craftswomen responded to the demands of advanced technology with fabrics that incorporated new or unusual materials such as Cellophane, leather and early synthetics, which had acoustic and light-reflecting properties. They produced multi-layered fabrics, cloths with double and triple weaves, and later made extensive use of the jacquard loom. The result was a rebirth of hand-weaving and new professionalism in designing textiles for mass production.
In this model study, superlatively documented with rare or little-seen photographs of the textiles and their makers, Sigrid Wortmann Weltge captures the heady atmosphere of creative excitement at the Bauhaus. Original archival research and interviews, both with survivors and their students and with leading contemporary designers, detail the workshop's history and its enduring legacy. When the Nazis closed the institution in 1933, its members dispersed to Switzerland, Holland, England, France, Russia, Mexico, and throughout the United States; their ideals and influence live on in marvelous fabrics still being produced today.
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Sigrid Wortmann Weltge is an Associate Professor in Art History at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
This book is neither a catalogue raisonne, nor a compilation of weave data. Instead, it pays tribute to members of the Bauhaus whose names are not known to a larger public. Female students, who were among the first wave of women after WWI to aspire to membership of the professional design community, arrived at the school with an astonishing diversity of talents, convinced that this avant garde institution would accept them as equals. Many already had extensive training in the arts. High-spirited and anti-bourgeois, they participated on many levels in the life of the Bauhaus.
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