The bookbinder and Bauhaus advertising artist Heinrich Clasing had experienced first-hand what it was like to muddle through as an ostracised Bauhausler. After the Bauhaus was closed down, he therefore devoted himself to exhibiting the work of banned avant-garde artists in his own little gallery in Münster.

Student-ID, Bauhaus Dessau, Heinrich Clasing, 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Student-ID, Bauhaus Dessau, Heinrich Clasing, 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

Heinrich Clasing was born in Münster on 13 April 1911. He completed an apprenticeship as a bookbinder in his home town in 1926–28. Starting in 1930, he studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau and Berlin for three years, up to March 1933. He attended the obligatory Preliminary Course directed by Josef Albers, with classes taught by Wassily Kandinsky (analytic drawing), Joost Schmidt (lettering, nude drawing), Fritz Kuhr (objective drawing), Walter Peterhans (mathematics) and Hans Volger (presentation and standards). After the basic course, Clasing was accepted into Joost Schmidt’s advertising workshop. From his fourth semester, he studied in the photography class directed by the Berlin photographer Walter Peterhans. His student works in the photography department focused on materials photography (a small number of photographs of Bauhaus textiles taken by Heinrich Clasing has survived in the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin, with a quality equalling the work of his teachers), still lifes and portraits, experiments in reportage, and free studies.

'Man in Room 2', Heinrich, Clasing, around 1930. Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / © Galerie Clasing & Etage, Münster.
'Man in Room 2', Heinrich, Clasing, around 1930. Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / © Galerie Clasing & Etage, Münster.

Even while he was still a student at the Bauhaus, Clasing was employed by Lilly Reich in 1931 as an assistant in typography for the German Building Exhibition in Berlin. On completing his studies, Clasing returned to Münster and took over his parents’ bookbinding and picture-framing business. In 1935, the photographer and graphic artist opened a gallery called 'Kleiner Raum Clasing' [Clasing Little Space], which is still in existence today, run by his daughter and son-in-law. Clasing organized monthly exhibitions of young, sometimes banned artists, such as Otto Pankok (1935), Carl Hofer (1936) and Edvard Munch (1937). In 1943, his home and the gallery were destroyed; the gallery was able to reopen two years later. From then on, Clasing again mainly presented exhibitions of avant-garde artists, including August Macke, Marc Chagall and Ernst Barlach. In 1957, the former Bauhaus student opened the 'Theatre in the Little Space', where one-act plays by Jean Cocteau and literary and musical events were held directly beside the gallery and workshop business. Heinrich Clasing ran the 'Clasing Little Space' gallery and the workshop for picture-framing and restoration in Münster up to his death on 29 August 1989.

[AG 2015]

Literature: 
Backmann, Sibylle & Birgit Gropp (2003): Eine Hommage an den Kunsthändler Heinrich Clasing, Münster.
Fiedler, Jeannine (1990): Photography at the Bauhaus, Cambridge, Mass.