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"applied arts" Tag


hey girl, feel the touch, run your hands over it (but don’t)


Friday, February 16, 2018

If you walk into the Base Stedelijk exhibition, set up in the basement of the Stedelijk Museum, you will find yourself immersed in a forest of metal walls. Artworks, design objects and furniture are placed next to each other and sorted by theme, rather after the usual concept of a timeline.

After a turn to the right and a subsequent turn to the left along the metal walls, the visitor (you) will find yourself in the Bauhaus area, where you will immediately lay your eyes on a white, light woolen landscape hanging vertically from the walls. The name of this artwork is the reliëfkleed, relief rug in English, and has been designed by the studio of the Dutch artist Kitty van der Mijll Dekker.

The first thing you will notice is the size of it; a sheer glance couldn’t cover the whole area of the relief rug. Reaching the top of the wall all the way down to the floor, the light beige, almost white color of the reliëfkleed blends wonderfully with the background wall. The rug is made out of differing techniques of weaving and knotting the wool, thus forming the intricate geometric patterns.

relief rug picture

    The second thing you will notice is related to the name of the relief rug: weaved and knotted, the rug forms an ocean of chunks, blobs and follows an intricate rhythm of geometric pattern.

The relief rug was gifted to the Stedelijk museum in 1936, accompanied by handwritten congratulations of Willem Sandberg, toured the world exhibitions as the Dutch Pavillon in Brussels and Paris, not without receiving several awards. After the success of the relief rug, her studio received invitations from the commissioner of the Queen to design and produce the carpets, wallpaper, bedding and the curtains for the royal provincial house in Maastricht.

screenshot kitty vdmijll

Even despite her success with her studio, Kitty van der Mijll Dekker and her works are seldom mentioned on the internet. Try googling “relief rug” without attaching her name, you can find hardly any photos. Why is it so? In order to understand why the women of Bauhaus were often under-mentioned and forgotten in history and publications, we will look into the history of Bauhaus:

    Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919 with the idea of a modern, forward-thinking school in mind. For the first time, uniting real artistic practice and craftsmanship under one roof brings back the necessity for the “neue Baukunst” which translates into ‘a new way to construct’. For this purpose, the Hochschule für bildende Künste (focussing on artistic practice) and the Kunstgewerbeschule (focussing on craftsmanship) in Weimar were merged together.

    The formation of Bauhaus fell simultaneously with the beginn of the Weimarer Republic, in which women gained new rights, amongst being allowed to vote for the first time and also attending university. Women were more than welcome to attend school at Bauhaus, as stated by Walter Gropius in the beginning. However, more women than men applied for Bauhaus once after it was opened, which lead to a drastic change in Bauhaus’ and Walter Gropius’ statements.

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In this photo: Gertrudt Arndt, Otti Berger, Benita Koch-Ottesubscription

    The large number of women at the Bauhaus attracted many forms of criticisms, including the complaints of the teaching bodies of the workshops, who are not used to have women work physically in their workshops. Traditionally, females are not allowed to be “Gesellen”, which students or rather workers who have completed an apprenticeship in a workshop are called.

    Second, the image of women as artists at that time has been depicted as decorative and rather less professional, in which female works are rather suited for the household, are more crafty and seen less functional. Admitting a large number of women could lead to the chances of critics or society decreasing the serious status and idea behind Walter Gropius’ planned pioneer school.

Wanting to set up his Bauhaus as a success, Gropius feared that his school might be denounced as a failure or taken not seriously if admitting so many female students, thus narrowing the admission of female students and setting up an all female class, which merged with the weaving department after a while.

The weaving department, which also had few male students, was the space in which most female students were sent to after completing the vooropleiding. Although the weaving department supported the school financially the most, it was seen as ‘less relevant’ or serious by the other departments. Other reasons, such as the philosophy of Johannes Itten towards the gender role or the increasing influence of the national socialists in Germany led towards a more backwards-facing behavior of treating female students than intended.

Still, many female artists from the school of Bauhaus are under-represented or solely left out in literature or online.

The solution would be a step-by-step collection of female Bauhaus artists and their works to make it accessible online for a wider audience, for example on open platforms such as wikipedia.

(more…)


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