Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master

Gunta Stolzl: Bauhaus Master BY Gunta Stolzl. edited by Monika Stadler. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Hardcover, 144 pages. $39.

The cover of Gunta Stolzl: Bauhaus Master

The Bauhaus is coming to New York. A retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art later this fall will be accompanied by an immense catalogue, detailing a dazzling array of the school’s ideas and objects. But before the onslaught of Gropius, Klee, Kandinsky, Albers, Breuer, Moholy-Nagy, Itten, and Schlemmer, one ought to peruse this intimate volume of work and writings by Gunta Stölzl, the school’s only female master. Coeditor Monika Stadler (both editors are the artist’s daughters), in a nostalgic glance back at her childhood, calls the interwoven text and images a “picture book,” and the term is quite apt; the slim monograph is host only to Stölzl’s memories, a “chamber of inalienable treasures,” as the artist once portrayed the Bauhaus period. Stölzl’s passion for experimentation and her intellectual exuberance are most in evidence in the years preceding her appointment, in 1925, to master of craft (she headed the weaving department). In a journal entry from 1919, her description of an old hunter predicts the modernist swells of color and expressive patterning that would soon appear in her textiles and designs: “big, gaunt, bent, in a pair of narrow, deep black trousers, a dark blue apron . . . a very colorful head, mostly red, blue, and violet tones . . . a white cat in his lap.” Her twelve years at the Bauhaus, from 1919 to 1931, were productive and inspiring, but her experience as a master was often frustrating: She fought for pay and recognition equal to those of the other masters and never received tenure. Still, Stölzl didn’t lose sight of the era’s significance: “Time did not matter; the attempt to live and give shape to the ‘new’ was the only thing that was urgent.”