In 1927 Walter Gropius commissioned the architect and Bauhausler Erich Consemüller to take interior photographs of the Dessau Bauhaus building – similar to the exterior photos by Lucia Moholy. He made about 300 photographs. They influence the image of the Bauhaus as decisively today as they did then.

Portrait of Erich Consemüller, photo: unknown, around 1924, in: Herzogenrath, Wulf & Kraus, Stefan (1989): Erich Consemüller, Fotografien Bauhaus Dessau, Munich, p. 210 / © Stefan Consemüller.
Portrait of Erich Consemüller, photo: unknown, around 1924, in: Herzogenrath, Wulf & Kraus, Stefan (1989): Erich Consemüller, Fotografien Bauhaus Dessau, Munich, p. 210 / © Stefan Consemüller.

Erich Consemüller began his training with a carpentry apprenticeship at the Echtermeyer furniture factory in Bielefeld and attended evening classes at the local school of arts and crafts in 1920. He enrolled for the winter semester of 1922 at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar. In 1922–1923, he attended Johannes Itten’s preliminary course and classes by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. From 1923 to 1925, he studied in the carpentry workshop with Walter Gropius. In 1923 in the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus Weimar, he completed his first piece of furniture according to his own design. 

Bauhaus Scene (Lis Beyer or Ise Gropius in a tubular steel chair by Marcel Breuer), photo: Erich Consemüller, 1926. Klassik Stiftung Weimar / Collection of Wulf Herzogenrath / © Stephan Consemüller.
Bauhaus Scene (Lis Beyer or Ise Gropius in a tubular steel chair by Marcel Breuer), photo: Erich Consemüller, 1926. Klassik Stiftung Weimar / Collection of Wulf Herzogenrath / © Stephan Consemüller.

After passing his journeyman’s examination on 1st March 1924 at the Chamber of Crafts Weimar, he travelled to Iceland and then returned for the winter semester at the Bauhaus Weimar. The same year, he worked on the decoration of the theatre café in Dessau and Erwin Piscator’s apartment in Berlin. From 1925–1926 to 1927–1928, he attended the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus Dessau with Marcel Breuer. In 1927, Consemüller transferred to the building department with Hannes Meyer. He left the Bauhaus Dessau on 25th March 1929. On 27th November 1929, he completed the building department’s Bauhaus diploma no. 4.

Marcel Breuer and his 'harem' (from left to right: Marta Erps-Breuer, Katt Both and Ruth Hollos-Consemüller), photo: Erich Consemüller, around 1927. Klassik Stiftung Weimar / © Dr. Stephan Consemüller.
Marcel Breuer and his 'harem' (from left to right: Marta Erps-Breuer, Katt Both and Ruth Hollos-Consemüller), photo: Erich Consemüller, around 1927. Klassik Stiftung Weimar / © Dr. Stephan Consemüller.

In 1927, Consemüller was commissioned by the Bauhaus to document the school with some 300 photographs. At the time, he was also one of the first employees of the newly established building department under Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer. He also worked on the designs for the Federal School of the German Trade Unions in Bernau near Berlin and on various construction projects for Hans Wittwer in Halle (Saale) in 1930. He married the former Bauhaus student Ruth Hollos in 1930. Between 1929 and 1933, he taught in the architecture and advertising departments of the workshops of the city of Halle, the Burg Giebichenstein federal-municipal school of applied arts. In 1933, he was removed from his office by the National Socialists and expelled from professional and artists’ associations.

In 1934–1935, he worked at the architecture office of Gerhard Schwerthelm and later as a draughtsman in various architecture offices in Halle (Saale) and Erfurt. From 1935 to 1939, he was active as a structural engineering technician at the office of the architect Wilhelm Ulrich in Halle (Saale) and until 1945 at the office of the former Bauhaus member and architect Walter Born in Leipzig. After the war, he worked briefly as a self-employed architect. In 1945–1946, he was employed by the town planning department of the city of Halle (Saale).

The Building as a Stage, Foto: Erich Consemüller, 1927. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Dr. Stephan Consemüller.
The Building as a Stage, Foto: Erich Consemüller, 1927. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Dr. Stephan Consemüller.

References:
Barche, Gisela (1990): Die fotografische Bildinszenierung – Zur Bühnenfotografie des Bauhauses, in: Fiedler, Jeannine (ed.): Photography at the Bauhaus, Berlin, p. 238–254.
Herzogenrath, Wulf & Stefan Kraus (1989): Erich Consemüller. Fotografien Bauhaus-Dessau, Munich.