Ivana Tomljenović reflected her expulsion from the Bauhaus in a photo collage with the word: 'Good luck, Bauhaus and Berlin comrades, we’ll see each other after the revolution'. During her time in Berlin after leaving the Bauhaus, she was a graphic designer and worked together with Dadaist John Heartfield.

Student-ID, Ivana Tomljenović, Bauhaus Dessau, 1929–1930. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / © The Avantgarde Museum.
Student-ID, Ivana Tomljenović, Bauhaus Dessau, 1929–1930. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / © The Avantgarde Museum.

Before enrolling at the Bauhaus, Ivana Tomljenović, born in Zagreb in 1906, had already completed her studies at the Royal Academy of Arts in Zagreb, which she attended for four years starting in 1924. On graduating, she first went to the College of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Vienna, but left it in 1929 to move to the Bauhaus in Dessau. Like all her fellow students, Tomljenović (often called ‘Koka’) attended the obligatory preliminary course given by Josef Albers. The following semester, she began to study photography in the newly founded course given by Berlin photographer Walter Peterhans. Her main interests were in poster design and photo processing.

Relaxation on the Bauhaus terrace, photo: Ivana Tomljenović, Dessau, 1930. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / © The Avantgarde Museum.
Relaxation on the Bauhaus terrace, photo: Ivana Tomljenović, Dessau, 1930. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / © The Avantgarde Museum.

The young artist soon became a member of the German Communist Party. Influenced by the innovative energies and ‘new’ pictorial language of the Bauhaus, she developed into an emancipated, politically left-wing intellectual. She herself came from the affluent middle class, against which she now started to revolt, with demands for social and economic equality. A Yugoslav communist group which organized an exhibition entitled ‘Terror in Yugoslavia’ in Berlin commissioned Tomljenović to design the cover for a book on ‘Dictatorship in Yugoslavia’. When Hannes Meyer was dismissed from the post of Director of the Bauhaus in 1930, a large number of Bauhaus students left the college with him – including Ivana Tomljenović.

She initially worked as a stage designer and poster designer in Berlin. In 1931, she moved to Paris, where she studied literature at the Sorbonne. The following year, she moved to Prague and married Alfred Meller, owner and chief engineer of the ROTA advertising company. Together, they produced luminokinetic shop-window decorations for the company. After Meller’s death in 1935, Tomljenović returned to Zagreb and later moved to Belgrade, where she taught poster design at women’s colleges. From 1938 onward, she lived in Zagreb again and became a teacher at the Third State High School (Gymnasium) for Women. After the end of the Second World War, she taught art again until 1962. Ivana Tomljenović-Meller died in Zagreb in 1988.

 

[AG 2015]

 

Bauhaus canteen, photo: Ivana Tomljenović, Dessau, 1930. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / © The Avantgarde Museum.
Bauhaus canteen, photo: Ivana Tomljenović, Dessau, 1930. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / © The Avantgarde Museum.

Literature:
Documents about Ivana Tomljenović at the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Galerija Grada (1983): Ivana (koka) Tomljenović. Bauhaus Dessau 1929–1930, Zagreb.
Mehulic, Leila (2010): Ivana Tomljenović Meller. A Zagreb girl at the Bauhaus, Zagreb.
Otto, Elizabeth (2015): Good luck, Bauhaus and Berlin Comrades, and See You After the Revolution, in: The Brooklyn Rail, 3 June 2015, http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/06/criticspage/good-luck-bauhaus-and-berlin-comrades-and-see-you-after-the-revolution (09.05.2016).