2019. January 8. Bauhaus, what has it got to do with me?

The question is valid. We already know that the 100-year old Bauhaus was an art and design school in Germany. But why is that important to us?

Bauhaus had numerous Hungarian students, talented and less successful ones. Some of them were successful abroad, others returned to Hungary to spread the knowledge about the movement.

Why were there so many Hungarians in Bauhaus?
This is related to the special historical and social situation of Hungary following the First World War. After the unfavourable political situation in 1919, the Trianon Treaty of the First World War, and the takeover of power by governor Miklós Horthy, there was no space for progressive artists in Hungary. Public life and universities became conservative. The „numerus clausus” law (put into force in 1920) limited the number of Jewish students in the universities. Many were not able to enter the Faculty of Architecture of the Technical University, still, they were informed about the big changes going on in Germany.

Ms. Margit Téry, (following Johannes Itten, the first professor of Bauhaus from Switzerland) joined Bauhaus already in the first college year. She was followed by Gyula Pap and Marcel Breuer (the latter invited by Fred Forbát, working in Gropius’s studio) in 1920 and they were joined by a significant number of people from Pécs: Farkas Molnár, Hugó Johan, Henrik (Szelle) Stefan, Andor Weininger.

László Moholy-Nagy worked in Bauhaus between 1922-1928, until Walter Gropius left. Furthermore, Otti Berger and Marcel Breuer were teachers of the school, while the critic Ernő Kállai, edited the Bauhaus journal in 1928-29.

Farkas Molnár: Red cube-house. Mock-up by Margit Pelényi (2009)

The reputation of Bauhaus was spread by personal relations in the beginning. Later, the effective propaganda and the well-known masters brought more and more new students.

The school was a pioneer having a great number of women among its students. Only to name a few: Ms. Etel Fodor and Masa Baranyai in 1929, Zsuzsanna Bánki in 1930, finally, in 1931 Irén Blüh and Zsuzsa Markos-Ney attended the Bauhaus school.

People around Bauhaus transmitted the Bauhaus-idea in many ways towards Hungary. Farkas Molnár became the head of CIRPAC (group of progressive architects) and cooperated with Marcel Breuer who returned to Hungary as well. Etel Fodor and his German husband, Ernst Mittag moved back to Pécs, they’ve built the first Bauhaus family house there. Fred Forbát was also working in Pécs in the years 1933-1938. Zsuzsanna Bánki opened his design studio in Győr. Sándor Bortnyik, active in Weimar between 1922-1925, established his free art school in Budapest called „Műhely” (workshop) in 1928, following Bauhaus philosophy until 1938.

Judit Kárász: Otti Berger with the Bauhaus building, 1931.

Towards the end of 1930s, many of the Bauhaus followers left the country, those who remained were threatened by World War II. Zsuzsanna Bánki and Otti Berger died in a concentration camp, Farkas Molnár was killed by a bomb. The Bauhaus atmosphere, following World War II, was kept alive by Tibor Weiner, the returning former architecture student, and Gyula Pap, professor of the University of Arts.

Where to get more information?
The best summary about the subject is the catalogue of the the exhibition „Hungarians in Bauhaus” (2010) organized by the Janus Pannonius Museum and the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin, plus there are several publications about the world famous designers László Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer.


Budapest, 30.12.2018.
Dániel Kovács, art historian

Main image: Andor Weininger: Mechanical stage (after 1923)