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Philip Goad, Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara, Harriet Edquist and Isabel Wünsche (eds.), Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond: Transforming Education Through Art, Design and Architecture,

Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing ; Sydney: Power Publications, 2019
Iain Boyd Whyte
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Philip Goad, Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara, Harriet Edquist and Isabel Wünsche (eds.), Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond: Transforming Education Through Art, Design and Architecture, Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing ; Sydney: Power Publications, 2019.

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Index géographique :

Océanie, Australie, Nouvelle-Zélande

Index chronologique :

XXe siècle
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1This interesting volume faces simultaneously in two directions. It informs the Australian audience about the precepts of the Bauhaus school of art and design, which flourished in Germany in the 1920s, while at the same time interrogating the development in Australia of a modernist art pedagogy. Rather strangely, given the universal repute and global influence of the Bauhaus, the authors of the book’s Introduction suggest that “the Bauhaus story itself is arguably well known”. The argument is easily made: the search term “Bauhaus” throws up over 100 items in the National Library of Australia, 195 in the National Library of New Zealand, and no less than 2,129 in the British Library. Clearly, there is no shortage of detailed information on the Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919.

2New in Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond is the account of the impact of Central European pedagogic practice in Australia. For while “Bauhaus” is a convenient shorthand for all things modern that originated east of the Rhine, its use in this title is a tad disingenuous. Indeed, only three former students of the Bauhaus actually made it to Australia: Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Gertrude Herzger-Seligman, and Georg Teltscher. Exile for the least fortunate means the loss of all that was of value; while for the more fortunate it heralds the start of a new adventure with the promise of great rewards. Herzger-Seligman clearly fell into the former category. The short essay in the book summarizing her career concludes: “As a German-speaking exile and single mother, she experienced racism, irregular employment and loneliness”. Adding to her sadness were the reports of her mother’s murder by the Nazis in June 1942 and the death in 1950 of her daughter, aged 21, in a car accident. She did, however, play music in a chamber music group that met in a house designed by Harry Seidler, and taught in the 1970s at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Teltscher, who had worked on Oskar Schlemmer’s stage sets at the Bauhaus, had an extremely brief career in Australia. Deported from Britain in 1940 as an “enemy alien” on the Dunera, he was beaten up and lost his teeth on the voyage while trying to escape the confines of the crowded lower decks to get some fresh air, and was interned on arrival in Australia. At the Hay internment camp in New South Wales, he gave lectures on modernism and the Bauhaus, and won a competition for the design of the camp currency, which was first issued in March 1941. Three months later he was released from internment and returned to Britain on the Themistocles.

3Hirschfeld-Mack was on the same, infamous voyage of the Dunera, which set sail from Liverpool on 19 July 1940. In his Bauhaus days he had worked with Adolf Hölzel, whose colour theories had a strong and lasting impact on the school’s pedagogic principles. Johannes Itten, the first master of the preliminary course, further developed the colour teaching until his departure from the Bauhaus in March 1923, at which point the colour course was taken over by Hirschfeld-Mack. He did not move with the Bauhaus to Dessau in 1925, however, and stayed in Weimar, where he taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Handwerk und Baukunst, which worked on Bauhaus principles under the directorship of the architect Otto Bartning. With the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany after the National Socialist takeover in 1933, Hirschfeld-Mack’s employment prospects became progressively reduced, and in 1936 he emigrated to England, where he pursued the research into colour and music that had prompted his multi-media Farbenlichtspiele (coloured light games) at the Bauhaus. One of the fruits of his sojourn in England was an elaborate machine, illustrated in this book, which used colour to teach children the rudiments of music. Among the beneficiaries were problematical children at the celebrated Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham, and the presumably less problematical pupils of Dulwich College Preparatory School, a private school in South London. This pedagogical drive became a principal focus of Hirschfeld-Mack’s subsequent working life in Australia teaching art at Geelong Grammar, one of Australia’s leading independent schools. Here he blossomed and joined the blessed ranks of those exiles who adapted and flourished in the new environment. Three essays in Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond, by Andrew McNamara and Ann Stephen give a very good account of Hirschfeld-Mack’s colour-light experiments and his broader pedagogical influence in Australia, which extended to his authorship of one of the first books on the Bauhaus published in English, The Bauhaus: An Introductory Survey (Croydon, Victoria: Longmans Green, 1963).

4In total, around 35 pages in this 280-page book are explicitly focused on the Bauhaus exiles, leaving generous scope for wider investigations into the impact of Central European artists and architects in Australia and also New Zealand. A severe German critic would assuredly find the use of the Bauhaus label more than a tad gewollt or contrived, even in a book published in the school’s centenary year. But in this volume, the narrow aperture of the Bauhaus is used as an opening onto a much broader vista, which is essentially about dialogue and exchange on modernist art, architecture and design between Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and the USA.

5The opening section of the book addresses the historical context of the Bauhaus, with a useful essay on reform education in Germany before the Bauhaus, touching on the Debschitz School in Munich and the Artists’ Colony in Darmstadt and then moving on to the educational principles of the Bauhaus. Subsequent sections focus on cultural and geographical exchange as the protagonists moved between continents, on modernist pedagogy, and finally on the Bauhaus legacy in art, design, and architecture. Some of the connections between Europe and Australia are strained: the essay on London’s Simpsons store on Piccadilly, for example, is explained simply on the grounds that two Australians—Dahl Collings and Alistair Morrison—together with a German, a Russian, and a Frenchman (all unnamed) worked in the design department, responsible for window displays, exhibition floors, and packaging. At the other extreme, some of the careers treated in the book are already well known. The Viennese-born architect Harry Seidler, who had reached Canada via a British internment camp and the prison ship Ettrick, is admitted as an honorary Bauhäusler on the basis of his studies with Walter Gropius at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard and with the former Bauhaus master Joseph Albers at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. When Seidler arrived in Australia in 1948, he brought with him first-hand knowledge of Gropius’s architectural and pedagogic methods, an authentic understanding of Bauhaus colour theory, and the beginnings of an expanding collection of Albers’s graphic work. Unsurprisingly, Seidler was very active in the Australian contemporary art scene, and was instrumental in inviting Gropius to Sydney in 1954. In the course of this visit, Gropius was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Sydney and also gave a lecture “The Scope of Total Architecture”, which became the title of one of his books.

6Other protagonists in the book are less known but no less interesting. The surprisingly large number of Austrian- and German-trained architects who emigrated to Australia are listed in the chapter “Education for Architecture: Vienna and Beyond”, by Philip Goad and Harriet Edquist. To take just one example, Karl Langer had studied with Peter Behrens at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna, and then worked briefly with Josef Frank and subsequently in the Behrens office. He then embarked on a PhD at the University of Vienna on the history of concrete, working in part with the art historian Josef Strzygowski, who took a global approach to art history while endorsing National Socialist theories of race. In 1932 Langer married Gertrude Fröschel, another Strzygowski student, and the couple decided to leave Vienna after the Kristallnacht (9-10 November 1938), as Gertrude was Jewish. Established in Brisbane, the Langers combined their Viennese heritage with the realities of living in Queensland. Thus Karl’s successful design practice focused strongly on issues of climate, while Gertrude enjoyed a notable career as an independent art historian with strong interests in Aboriginal, Asian and Japanese art.

7The cultural exchange was by no means entirely one directional or politically enforced, however, and the world travels of Australian artists and architects are also well documented. Not untypical is the extraordinary career of Henry Pynor, who studied architecture at Melbourne University and worked in the Burley Griffin office in Melbourne from 1921-1924, before setting out on world travels that took him to US and Europe, with a stop on the way at the Bauhaus in Dessau. He then worked in London for Burnet, Tait and Lorne, and was also an architectural consultant in Moscow to Gosproyekstroy, the State Design Construction Trust. Following wartime service in the US Army Corps of Engineers, he was appointed head of the School of Architecture at Sydney Technical College in 1944, where he revised the syllabus along Bauhaus lines. Sadly, he died young in 1946.

  • 1 Walter Gropius, Scope of Total Architecture, New York, NY: Collier Books, 1962, p. 21

8In his book Scope of Total Architecture, which grew out of his Sydney lecture, Gropius insisted that: “The object of the Bauhaus was not to propagate any ‘style’ system or dogma, but simply to exert a revitalizing influence on design”.1 On the basis of the 35 diverse and outstandingly well-illustrated essays brought together in Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond, this goal was convincingly realized in Australia and New Zealand.

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Note de fin

1 Walter Gropius, Scope of Total Architecture, New York, NY: Collier Books, 1962, p. 21

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Référence électronique

Iain Boyd Whyte, « Philip Goad, Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara, Harriet Edquist and Isabel Wünsche (eds.), Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond: Transforming Education Through Art, Design and Architecture,  »ABE Journal [En ligne], 18 | 2021, mis en ligne le 30 juillet 2021, consulté le 26 octobre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Iain Boyd Whyte

University of Edinburgh

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