Front / Recto

  • Title At the Masters' Houses (An den Meisterhäusern)
  • Negative Date 1929–30
  • Print Date 1929–39
  • Medium Gelatin silver print
  • Dimensions Image 8 7/8 x 6 1/4" (22.6 x 15.8 cm)
  • Place Taken Dessau
  • Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
  • MoMA Accession Number 1607.2001
  • Copyright © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
  • Description

    In the winter of 1923–24 Gertrud Arndt (née Hantschk), then age twenty, enrolled at the Bauhaus with plans to study architecture. She had just completed an apprenticeship in an architectural office in Erfurt, where she had taught herself photography and used her own camera to document local buildings. Learning only upon her arrival at the Bauhaus that there was not yet an established architecture department, she enrolled in the weaving workshop. During her time at the school, László Moholy-Nagy was spreading interest in the New Photography; in 1925 he published his influential book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film). Though Arndt graduated from the Bauhaus in 1927 with a certificate in weaving, she never returned to the medium; instead she devoted herself to photography, which as a student she had continued to practice on the side. That same year, she married her classmate Alfred Arndt, who had studied carpentry and wall painting under Marcel Breuer and Hinnerk Scheper.

    In 1929, after a year spent in Thuringia, the couple returned to the Bauhaus, then headed by Hannes Meyer. Alfred was soon appointed director of the interior design department and Gertrud remained at the school in an unofficial capacity, continuing her personal photographic work. She is best known for the images she made in subsequent years, many of them costumed self-portraits. This photograph from 1929–30 is one of the few surviving prints of a subject other than self-portraiture. Marrying photography with her love of architecture and her husband’s experience with wall painting, Arndt captured students in Dessau painting one of the Masters’ Houses, designed by Walter Gropius and constructed in 1924–25. The radical composition of her picture, with its vertiginous diagonals, gives the building an exciting, dynamic flair that was as up-to-the-minute in photographic style as the sheer, classical geometries of Gropius’s design were in architectural style. The new buildings of the Dessau campus are a common subject of photographs by Bauhaus students and teachers, among them Lucia Moholy, László Moholy-Nagy, Lyonel Feininger, T. Lux Feininger, and Iwao Yamawaki.

    This image is one of several Arndt made of this subject with her Welta 6 by 9 centimeter (2 3/8 by 3 9/16 inch) medium-format plate camera, among the most popular formats of the day. Arndt enlarged the negative onto a special bartya-less paper with a matte surface and softened highlights, which gives this print a rich, dense tone. The rather unusual and sophisticated paper is an interesting choice for a self-proclaimed amateur, perhaps suggesting, like the daring point of view, that its author was more serious in her artistic ambitions than she was wont to admit.

    —Lee Ann Daffner, Audrey Sands

Back / Verso

  • Mount Type No mount - evidence previous mount
  • Marks and Inscriptions Signed in pencil on sheet verso, bottom center: An den Meisterhäusern/G. Arndt 1930. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, bottom center: RK 11082-1ÜHSZ8.
  • Provenance The artist; to Alexa Bormann-Arndt, Darmstadt, Germany [1]; probably to Egidio Marzona, Berlin/Bielefeld; to Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne, 1982 [2]; purchased by Thomas Walther, 1984 [3]; given to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
    [1] Alexa Bormann-Arndt, conversation with Simon Bieling, Darmstadt, 2005.
    [2] Rudolf Kicken, conversation with Bieling, Kicken Berlin, February 17, 2004; and Egidio Marzona, conversation with Bieling, Berlin, August 2005.
    [3] MacGill/Walther 2001(4), p. 1; Ina Schmidt-Runke (Kicken Berlin), e-mail to Maria Morris Hambourg, November 13, 2013; and Thomas Walther archival no. TW 840506 on Walther inventory sheet.


  • Surface Sheen Matte
  • PTM
    View of the recto of the artwork made using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) software, which exaggerates subtle surface details and renders the features of the artwork plainly visible. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Micro-raking
    Raking-light close-up image, as shot. Area of detail is 6.7 x 6.7 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
    Raking-light close-up image, processed. Processing included removal of color, equalization of the histogram, and sharpening, all designed to enhance visual comparison. Department of Conservation, MoMA

Paper Material

  • Format Metric
  • Weight Double weight
  • Thickness (mm) 0.34
  • UV Fluorescence Recto negative
    Verso negative
  • Fiber Analysis Rag 96%
    Bast 4%
    Softwood bleached sulfite 1%
  • Material Techniques Developing-out paper
    Baryta-less paper
  • XRF

    This work was determined to be a gelatin silver print via X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry.

    The following elements have been positively identified in the work, through XRF readings taken from its recto and verso (or from the mount, where the verso was not accessible):

    • Recto: Al, S, Ca, Cr, Fe, Zn, Ag, Ba
    • Verso: Al, P, S, Ca, Cr, Fe, Zn, Ba

    The graphs below show XRF spectra for three areas on the print: two of the recto—from areas of maximum and minimum image density (Dmax and Dmin)—and one of the verso or mount. The background spectrum represents the contribution of the XRF instrument itself. The first graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the lower energy range (0 to 8 keV). The second graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the higher energy range (8 to 40 keV).

    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Al, P, S, Ca, Cr, Ag, Ba
    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Fe, Zn, Ag

In Context

Related Images

Gertrud Arndt. Bei den Meisterhausern (At the masterhouses). 1929. Gelatin silver print, 8 15/16 x 6 3/8" (22.7 x 16.9 cm). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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