Ida Kerkovius came to the Bauhaus in Weimar as a skilled painter and master student of Adolf Hölzel. Here she took lessons from, among others, Johannes Itten, who had once been her student. Influenced by Kandinsky and Klee, Kerkovius abstracted her painting, freeing it from the limitations of representation.
Ida Kerkovius was born on 31 August 1879 in Riga, one of twelve children of an affluent, respectable German family. She attended a secondary school for young ladies and was taught to play the piano and sing. Her parents indulged her desire to be an artist and sent her to a private art school in Riga, where she completed a foundation course. When she visited an art salon in Riga in 1901 – an exhibition of works by Baltic German women artists – Kerkovius was impressed by the work of the painter and pupil of Adolf Hölzel, Martha Hellmann. Following a tour of Italy a few months later, Ida Kerkovius visited Hölzel in Dachau and likewise became his pupil. After five formative months – working under Hölzel, the young woman learned that painting was an autonomous means of expression and that the picture has to be built up from colour – she was called home by her parents. Five years passed before she returned to Germany. After a brief period in the private studio of Adolf Mayer, Kerkovius was drawn back to Hölzel, who at the time had accepted a professorship at the Königlich Württembergische Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. As a master student, in 1911 Kerkovius became his assistant and taught Hölzel’s theory herself in a master studio in the academy. Among her students was Johannes Itten, who was to later become her teacher during her time at the Bauhaus in Weimar. When WWI broke out, Kerkovius was deprived of her German citizenship. As a foreigner, from now on she was no longer permitted to teach at the academy; in her private studio, she taught foreign students who had been refused places to study at the academy.
In 1920 Kerkovius decided to enrol at the Bauhaus in Weimar, where she studied during the winter term until 1923. She developed her painting further in the classes of Johannes Itten, Oskar Schlemmer and Wassily Kandinsky. Using strong colours, she worked to break down the limitations of representational art. After completing the preliminary course Kerkovius, like most of the women at the Bauhaus, transferred to the weaving workshop. Here, she showed great talent and wove carpets for Walter Gropius and Paul Klee, who adored her work. She saw her talent as an opportunity to make a future living for herself. In 1924 the painter and weaver returned to Stuttgart, where she taught and continued to weave. From 1934 to 1939, Kerkovius travelled to Norway, Belgium, France, Bulgaria and Italy; in between, she visited her homeland. During the period in which the National Socialists came to power, Kerkovius did in fact earn her living mainly with her weaving work. Her close friend Hanna Bekker vom Rath, initially Kerkovius’s apprentice, then an art dealer, secretly sold Kerkovius’s art during the time in which her painting was viewed as "degenerate". In 1944 her studio in Stuttgart was bombed out, which is why very few of Kerkovius’s works from the years before the bombing exist.
In 1950 Ida Kerkovius became a member of the Deutscher Künstlerbund. Between 1950 and 1965 she travelled frequently: to Ischia in 1952 and 1954, Brittany in 1954, the South of France in 1956 and Lake Garda in 1965. In 1954 Kerkovius was awarded the German Order of Merit, First Class. The same year, she became an honorary member of the artists’ guild of Esslingen/Neckar. In 1955 she was awarded the first prize of the exhibition 'Ischia im Bilde deutscher Maler'. She became a professor in 1958 and taught into old age. In 1962 she was made an honorary member of the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart and, a year later, an honorary board member of the Deutscher Künstlerbund.
Bayer, Rudolf: Vita zu Ida Kerkovius, Galerie Bayer, http://www.galerie-bayer-bietigheim.de/index.htm?/kuenstler/kerkovius/index.htm, 09.06.2016.
Braun, Adrienne (2002): Die späte Schülerin. Serie: Frauen am Bauhaus, in: ART. Das Kunstmagazin, No. 11, p. 60–66.
Bußmann, Annette: Ida Kerkovius, Biography on Fembio, http://www.fembio.org/biographie.php/frau/biographie/ida-kerkovius/, 09.06.2016.
Herber, Anne-Kathrin (2009): Frauen an deutschen Kunstakademien im 20. Jahrhundert. Ausbildungsmöglichkeiten für Künstlerinnen ab 1919 unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der süddeutschen Kunstakademien, Dissertation, Heidelberg.
Stadt Stuttgart: Ida Kerkovius, http://www.stuttgart.de/item/show/33860, 09.06.2016.
Radewaldt, Ingrid (2009): Ida Kerkovius, in: Müller, Ulrike (ed.): Bauhaus-Frauen. Meisterinnen in Kunst, Handwerk und Design, München, p. 28–33.