Artistic polymath Herbert Bayer was one of the Bauhaus’s most influential students, teachers, and proponents, advocating the integration of all arts throughout his career. Bayer began his studies as an architect in 1919 in Darmstadt. From 1921 to 1923 he attended the Bauhaus in Weimar, studying mural painting with Vasily Kandinsky and typography, creating the Universal alphabet, a typeface consisting of only lowercase letters that would become the signature font of the Bauhaus. Bayer returned to the Bauhaus from 1925 to 1928 (moving in 1926 to Dessau, its second location), working as a teacher of advertising, design, and typography, integrating photographs into graphic compositions.
He began making his own photographs in 1928, after leaving the Bauhaus; however, in his years as a teacher the school was a fertile ground for the New Vision photography passionately promoted by his close colleague László Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy’s students, and his Bauhaus publication Malerei, Photographie, Film (Painting, photography, film). Most of Bayer’s photographs come from the decade 1928–38, when he was based in Berlin working as a commercial artist. They represent his broad approach to art, including graphic views of architecture and carefully crafted montages.
In 1938 Bayer emigrated to the United States with an invitation from Alfred H. Barr, Jr., founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, to apply his theories of display to the installation of the exhibition Bauhaus: 1919–28 (1938) at MoMA. Bayer developed this role through close collaboration with Edward Steichen, head of the young Department of Photography, designing the show Road to Victory (1942), which would set the course for Steichen’s influential approach to photography exhibition. Bayer remained in America working as a graphic designer for the remainder of his career.
Introduction by Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, 2014
Taking a Thread for a Walk
Through April 19, 2020
How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior
October 1, 2016–
April 23, 2017
Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949
December 13, 2014–
April 19, 2015
Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye
November 15, 2014–
January 18, 2016
Designing Modern Women 1890–1990
October 5, 2013–
October 19, 2014
- Herbert Bayer has online.