Lou Scheper developed a very individual artistic formal language and created an enormously multifaceted oeuvre. The artist took the view that not all design has to be functional. That is why her free studies do not necessarily reflect today’s stereotype of the Bauhaus.

Portrait of Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, '27. juni 29', (detail from a photo with Gunta Stölzl), photo: unknown, Dessau 1929. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Portrait of Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, '27. juni 29', (detail from a photo with Gunta Stölzl), photo: unknown, Dessau 1929. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

Hermine Luise Berkenkamp, known as Lou for short, was born on 15 May 1901 in Wesel. After her school-leaving exams in 1920, she enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar, where she studied with Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and Georg Muche. On successfully completing the obligatory preliminary course, she moved to the mural painting workshop. In 1922, she married her fellow Bauhaus student, Hinnerk Scheper. She dropped out of her studies at this point and devoted herself to her husband’s work, alongside her own freelance painting. When Hinnerk Scheper was appointed as master of mural painting at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1925, they both moved to Dessau. Between 1926 and 1928 – their children Jan (1923) and Britta (1926) had been born in the meantime – Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp played an active part in the work of the Bauhaus Theatre, headed by Oskar Schlemmer. She took part in the Bauhaus’s joint exhibitions from 1927 to 1929.

In July 1929, Hinnerk Scheper received an offer to travel to Moscow until August 1930 (and thereafter from June to September 1931) to establish an ‘Advisory Centre for Colour in Architecture and the Cityscape’ in his capacity as a specialist for colour design. His wife accompanied him during this period abroad, and worked with him on colour schemes and wrote journalistic pieces for a German-language weekly 'Moskauer Rundschau'. The Schepers returned to the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1931, and a year later moved once again with the college and its new Director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to Berlin.

Following the closure of the Bauhaus in Berlin in 1933, Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp worked as a freelance painter in Berlin, creating picture-stories and continuing to support Hinnerk Scheper’s freelance work. The first of her children’s books was published in 1948; new editions of two of these have recently been published by the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin. Together with other artists, the former Bauhaus member formed the artists’ group ‘The Ring’ in Berlin three years later. In addition to taking part in numerous exhibitions in West Germany and sporadically abroad as well, Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp still continued to play an active role in the Professional Association of Fine Artists up to 1970. Between 1956 and 1969, she was jointly responsible for organizing the annual Great Berlin Art Exhibition.

Following the early death of Hinnerk Scheper on 5 February 1957, the former Bauhaus member took over his duties in the field of colour design in Berlin’s architectural landscape. She was responsible, among other things, for the colour design of the last project implemented by Otto Bartning (a children’s home in Berlin), Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie building (in Berlin), the Egyptian Museum (in Berlin), various buildings by Walter Gropius in the Berlin districts of Britz, Buckow and Rudow, as well as the Berlin Tegel airport building. Up to her death on 11 April 1976, Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp was still working on the colour scheme for Scharoun’s Berlin State Library building.

Literature:
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / Museum für Gestaltung (2012): Phantastiken. Die Bauhäuslerin Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, Berlin.
Murken, Barbara (2010): 'Eigentlich sitze ich lieber auf Luftlinien als auf Sesseln ...'. Die magische Bilderwelt der Bauhauskünstlerin Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, in: Das Bücherschloss. Mitteilungen aus der Internationalen Jugendbibliothek, Munich, p. 77–84.
Müller, Ulrike (2009): Bauhausfrauen. Meisterinnen in Kunst, Handwerk und Design, Munich.
Scheper, Dirk (1987): Biographical facts about the life of Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, Berlin, document at the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.