Front / Recto
- Title Bauhaus
- Negative Date February 26, 1929
- Print Date 1929–32
- Medium Gelatin silver print
- Dimensions Image 7 × 8 1/2" (17.8 × 21.6 cm)
- Place Taken Dessau
- Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
- MoMA Accession Number 1669.2001
- Copyright © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
In 1926, Lyonel Feininger, accompanied by his wife, Julia, and their adolescent sons, Andreas, Laurence, and Theodore Lux, moved into one of the double Masters’ Houses at the Dessau Bauhaus. In the other half of the house—designed by Walter Gropius, the director of the school—lived the photographer Lázsló Moholy-Nagy with his wife, Lucia Moholy, a skilled professional photographer. Moholy-Nagy enthusiastically advocated photography as the essential modern language, a message he broadcast in his influential book Malerei, Fotographie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film), which was published by the school in 1925 and reprinted in 1927. Feininger initially considered Moholy’s vigorous embrace of camera optics, new perspectives, and recombinant techniques to be outside the realm of art, but after a few years of living in the same house he changed his views: Moholy’s ideas and vitality had proved irresistible not only to the painter but to his three sons as well.
From the Feininger basement, where Andreas built a darkroom in 1927, emerged lively photographs of Bauhaus theater productions, of the Bauhaus jazz band in which T. Lux and other students played, and of their friends involved in all manner of events. To enlarge their images, the young Feiningers fabricated a projector from a wood box, four lightbulbs, and a camera lens. They secured a glass negative to the front of the device and projected the negative’s image onto sheets of unexposed photographic paper pinned to an easel. The only signs of this procedure in the prints are the tiny white lines of shadow cast by the pins, which blocked the paper’s exposure to the light.
Prior to his arrival at the Bauhaus, in 1919, Feininger had shown his paintings with the artist group Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider), at the Galerie der Sturm and at the Galerie Dada. Because of these and other accomplishments, Gropius deferred to the somewhat older master and let him give up teaching and devote himself entirely to painting. In 1928 Feininger also took up photography, initially as an activity to enliven his long, solitary evening walks. Bauhaus is a view of the workshop wing of the school printed from a 4.5 by 6 centimeter (1 ¾ by 2 3/8 inch) glass-plate negative using the projection technique worked out by his sons. Feininger carefully trimmed, retouched, and inscribed this large print on the verso with the time and place it was taken.
In making his prints Feininger drew from his experience as a printmaker who knew the critical role of craft and materials—of inks and papers—and Lucia Moholy’s fine printing may also have made him especially attentive to print quality. Feininger chose a thin matte paper with a high rag content, which instead of reflecting light, as glossy papers do, absorbs it. This invites the viewer’s eye to sink into the velvety blacks and allows the gradual discrimination of degrees of darkness within these meditative nocturnes.
—Lee Ann Daffner, Maria Morris Hambourg
Back / Verso
- Mount Type No mount
- Marks and Inscriptions Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, center: ←17,5→. Inscribed in green crayon on sheet verso, right: 56. Signed in black ink on sheet verso, bottom center: Lyonel Feininger, Bauhaus. d. 26. II. 29.
The artist. Sold through Sotheby's New York (sale 6073, lot 365) to Thomas Walther, October 16, 1990 ; given to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
 Sotheby’s invoice no. 6073161, October 16, 1990.
- Format Metric
- Weight Single weight
- Thickness (mm) 0.19
- UV Fluorescence Recto no data Verso no data
- Fiber Analysis Softwood bleached sulfite 72% Rag 18% Bast 10% Hardwood bleached kraft/soda
- Material Techniques Developing-out paper
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: P, S, Cl, Ca, Zn, Sr, Ag, Ba
- Verso: Al, Si, S, K, Ca, Fe, Zn, Sr, 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).
- Schools Bauhaus, 1919–33