Heinrich Neuy was one of the youngest to enrol at the Bauhaus. What the student of Josef Albers, Joost Schmidt, Wassily Kandinsky and Mies van der Rohe experienced and learned at the Bauhaus impressed him so deeply that it gave him direction and orientation for the rest of his life.
Heinrich Neuy was born on 27 July 1911 in Kevelaer in the Lower Rhine region. From 1925 to 1928 he completed an apprenticeship in his father’s carpentry workshop. Encouraged by the landscape painter Josef Pauels, at the same time he began to produce figurative architectural, landscape and portrait studies. After his apprenticeship Neuy attended the School of Applied Art and Craft in Krefeld (until 1930). In the spirit of the school, his first furniture and interior designs are distinguished by a rigorous functionality and clarity of design.
Impressed by his visit to the exhibition ‘10 Jahre Bauhaus’ (10 Years of Bauhaus) at the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Heinrich Neuy enrolled at the Bauhaus Dessau in the summer term of 1930. Here, the 19-year old initially studied under Josef Albers as master of works, under Wassily Kandinsky (creative design, abstract form elements and analytical drawing) and under Joost Schmidt (typography and life drawing). Having completed the preliminary course, Neuy opted to join the department of architecture and interior design, attending courses and seminars in architecture with Mies van der Rohe, town planning with Ludwig Hilbersheimer, interior design with Lilly Reich, colour with Hinnerk Scheper and psychology with Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim. In March 1932 he was granted leave for a term of practical work experience, but owing to the political changes underway, he did not return to the Bauhaus thereafter.
Instead, Neuy returned to his carpentry apprenticeship in his father’s workshop and became a master carpenter. He married in 1937, took over his father-in-law’s carpentry workshop in Borghorst and set up a furniture and arts and crafts business, where he accepted private commissions as well as public contracts for the municipality of Borghorst.
From 1940 to 1944 Heinrich Neuy served in the Luftwaffe, became a prisoner of war and was interned in various camps in the USA. During this period he developed a number of design projects for the camp organisers, sketched portraits of his fellow prisoners and kept a sketchbook of architectural and town planning designs. In 1946 he was transferred to England, where, thanks to the help of a Scottish medical officer in a military hospital, he gained the opportunity and means to return to abstract painting.
In October 1946 Neuy returned to Borghorst, where he continued to run his carpentry workshop and his furniture and arts and crafts business. He began to take on apprentices once again and thereby adopted an open-minded approach to education, taking on numerous girls as carpentry apprentices and rising to the particular challenge of giving socially disadvantaged young people a new sense of direction. He continued to teach apprentices until 1989 when, at the age of 78, he handed over the carpentry workshop to his grandson.
That same year, Heinrich Neuy opened a gallery in his old carpentry workshop, now redeveloped, and devoted himself entirely to his creative work. In 1991 he was awarded the Culture Prize of the city of Steinfurt and, in 1996, the Culture Prize of the district of Steinfurt. A school in Borghorst was named in his honour in 2001. Heinrich Neuy died in Steinfurt-Borghorst on 24 March 2003.
Heinrich Neuy began to exhibit again in 1960, participating in numerous group and solo exhibitions in Germany and in Amsterdam, Helsinki, Minsk and Tokyo and in group exhibitions worldwide with the Bauhaus-Archiv. In 1994 the retrospective ‘Heinrich Neuy, Malerei und Grafik’ was shown at the Bauhaus Dessau and in Muenster.
In 2011 after a lengthy process of restoration and expansion, the Heinrich Neuy Stiftung (Heinrich Neuy foundation) opened the HeinrichNeuyBauhausMuseum in the historic Stiftskurienhaus (built 1668). The museum is dedicated to the design doctrine of the Bauhaus and exhibits concepts and works from the fields of art, design and architecture. A series of solo and group exhibitions primarily present the work of Heinrich Neuy and other Bauhauslers and Bauhaus tutors.
Text: Burckhard Kieselbach
Friedrich, Werner (2001): Heinrich Neuy, Steinfurt.
Rittmann, Annegret (1994): heinrich neuy, Dessau.