Not until after arriving at the Bauhaus did Gertrud Arndt learn that it was not possible to study architecture here. So she became a weaver. But secretly her heart beat for photography. Working autodidactically, Arndt compiled a series of self-portraits that brought her belated fame.
Gertrud Arndt (maiden name Hantschk) was born on 20 September 1903 in Ratibor in Upper Silesia. Before enrolling at the Bauhaus in the winter semester of 1923–1924, she took an apprenticeship at an architectural office in Erfurt. At her employer’s suggestion, she started using her camera to document buildings in Erfurt even during the apprenticeship. On seeing the first Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar in 1923, and with a student grant in her pocket, she decided to go to the Bauhaus to study architecture. It was only when she arrived there that she discovered that it did not yet have a department of architecture.
After completing the preliminary course, she moved to the weaving workshop, where she took part in various projects in a productive and creative way during the following three years (up to the winter semester of 1927) – such as a tapestry commissioned by Thost. In 1927, Arndt completed her studies at the Bauhaus with a final apprenticeship examination at the weavers’ guild in Glauchau. She never worked in textile design or weaving again afterwards; from then on, her focus was on photography, in which she had continued to develop her skills on a self-taught basis throughout her entire studies. Gertrud Arndt left the Bauhaus with her husband Alfred Arndt in 1928.
The same year, she married her fellow student Alfred Arndt, moving to Probstzella in Thuringia with him for work reasons. When he was appointed as head of the extension workshop at the Bauhaus in 1929 by its second Director, Hannes Meyer, the Arndts returned to Dessau. Gertrud Arndt did not enrol as a student again, however, seeing her task as being to provide her husband with support. In 1930, she produced a series of 43 self-portraits, which she called ‘Mask Portraits’. Her daughter Alexandra was born in 1931. The following year, the Arndts left the Bauhaus and returned to Probstzella again, where they remained until 1948. Their son Hugo was born in 1937. In 1948, they moved to Darmstadt, where Gertrud Arndt died on 10 July 2000.
Gertrud Arndt was rediscovered as a photographer during the 1980s, and has been compared with contemporary female photographers such as Marta Astfalck-Vietz and Claude Cahun. The Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin devoted a special exhibition to Gertrud Arndt in January 2013, linking her textile art and photography with each other for the first time.
Das Verborgene Museum (1994): Photographien der Bauhauskünstlerin Gertrud Arndt, Berlin.
Graphische Sammlung des Hessischen Landesmuseums (1993): Gertrud Arndt. Fotografien aus der Bauhauszeit (1926–1932), Darmstadt.