Oskar Schlemmer

Bauhaus’ Last Avantgarde Champion

Some of Oskar Schlemmer’s theater costumes on display. Source: Stuttgart Staatsgalerie
Some of Oskar Schlemmer’s theater costumes on display.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Stuttgart Staatsgalerie has brought together an impressive show of one of the lesser-known Bauhaus masters.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Mr. Schlemmer’s work was banned as “degenerate art” by the Nazis.
    • He was shunned and ridiculed by the Nazis and died a broken man at age 54 in 1943.
    • The retrospective runs in Stuttgart through April 6, 2015.
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  • Audio

    Audio

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The first impression is reserved for the “Bauhaustreppe,” Oskar Schlemmer’s most famous piece of art.

Purchased by legendary U.S. architect Philip Johnson for the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1933, it avoided being confiscated by the Nazis for being “degenerate,” like much of Mr. Schlemmer’s other work.

The oil painting is on loan in Stuttgart at the city’s Staatsgalerie for a retrospective. Showing people ascending the stairway at the Bauhaus Academy, it was the first — and last sale of Mr. Schlemmer’s art to a foreign museum in his lifetime.

He died in 1943, broken at the age of 54. He was ejected from his position as a professor and the Nazis displayed his work in a now notorious 1937 “degenerate art” exhibition.

But this vision by one of the lesser-known Bauhaus greats survived and is being displayed in his first major show in decades. The Schlemmer universe can be freely explored after the rights to his work entered the public domain this year. Previously his daughter and grandchildren had rejected any research and exhibitions.

The art world has been excitedly awaiting a look at the bequest, which has been stored in the Stuttgart Staatsgallerie’s archive. It holds 3,000 letters and 270 works of art, including painting, drawings, costumes and sculptures, providing plenty of material for a proper retrospective called “Visions of a New World.”

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