Herbert von Arend is one of the few men who studied in the Bauhaus weaving workshop. There, in 1931, he took part in the uprising against workshop director Gunta Stölzl, left the Bauhaus as a consequence, and became a tax officer – yet he never lost touch with weaving and art.
Herbert von Arend was born in 1910 in Qingdao, China, the son of a German merchant family. When WWII shifted the balance of power shifted in the seaport, until then controlled by the German Empire, the von Arend family were expelled from China. Back in Germany, Herbert von Arend attended the higher vocational school (Oberrealschule) in Muenster, Westphalia from 1921 to 1928. He showed an early interest in drawing, painting and working with textiles; art teacher Leo Burgholz therefore encouraged him to study at the Bauhaus.
Von Arend enrolled at the Bauhaus Dessau in the summer term of 1928. He began his studies in Josef Albers’s preliminary course. After one term of basic training, he chose to join the weaving workshop – one of the few male students to do so. He also attended the free painting classes tutored by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky (up to the winter term of 1930–1931) and participated in the two ‘Junge Bauhausmaler’ (Young Bauhaus painters) exhibitions in Weimar, Jena, Erfurt and Berlin.
In 1931, some students in the weaving classes rebelled against the pedagogical leadership style of the workshop’s head, Gunta Stölzl; von Arend, along with Grete Reichardt and Ilse Voigt, was one of the ringleaders. In September 1931, as a result the revolt in the weaving workshop and other hostilities, Stölzl left the Bauhaus. Reichardt, Voigt and von Arend were temporarily expelled. Von Arend forwent his Bauhaus Diploma and, in 1932, passed his apprenticeship certification examination at the Chamber of Crafts of Galuchau, Saxony, qualifying as a hand weaver.
In 1933 von Arend abruptly abandoned his artistic career. He started work as a weaver on mechanised looms in the textile industry, then became a soldier and subsequently an officer in the Wehrmacht. He married in 1939. Following military service and a period as a prisoner of war in Russia, from which he returned in 1949, for the next two years he took a number of odd jobs, among other things in forestry and in tube drawing in the metal industry. In 1952 von Arend finally returned to his creative work, doing so alongside his main occupation as a tax officer at the revenue office in Schleiden-Gemünd, Eifel. After retiring in 1972 von Arend devoted himself entirely to his art, acquired a high-warp loom and, in 1973, started to weave again. In his special issue symbol. zeitschrift für bildende kunst und lyrik (symbol. journal for visual art and verse), published in 1981, he writes, 'i like to describe my work as creative weaving. my starting point was a small woven piece that i made at the bauhaus in dessau in 1931.' Almost all of Herbert von Arend’s pre-war work was misplaced in the tumult of war – except for this woven work, titled 'zwischen rot und blau' (between red and blue), which he made in the weaving class. He was encouraged to do so by Emil Bert Hartwig, with whom he experimented in the weaving workshop.
Von Arend’s catalogue raisonné lists around 2,600 works on paper executed in a range of drawing, painting and mixed and graphic techniques. It includes 30 woven works – woven images, rugs and tapestries, most of them larger format works measuring up to 210 x 75 cm. In addition to the exhibition ‘Arbeiten aus der Weberei des Bauhauses’ (Works from the weaving workshop of the Bauhaus) shown in 1964 in the Bauhaus-Archiv Darmstadt, von Arend’s work was shown from 1972 to 1999 in a range of solo and group exhibitions in North Rhine-Westphalia, Weimar, Dessau, Paris and Liège. Herbert von Arend died in April 2001 in Schleiden, Eifel. In 2014, the Heinrich Neuy Bauhaus Museum in Steinfurt-Borghorst devoted a solo exhibition to the artist, showing his works on paper and a tapestry.
Text: Burckhard Kieselbach
Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon – AKL V, 1992, p. 18.
Wangler, Wolfgang (1981): symbol. herbert von arend. zeitschrift für bildende kunst und lyrik, No. 36, Cologne.
von Arend, Herbert (1996): herbert von arend. werkverzeichnis, Gelsenkirchen.