With great enthusiasm, Werner David Feist took many photos at the Bauhaus: portraits, still lifes, material studies. His images are expressive and dynamically composed through and through. Sharply angled views and close-ups alternate with double exposures and unusual lighting effects.

Self-portrait (?), photo: Werner David Feist (?), March 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Self-portrait (?), photo: Werner David Feist (?), March 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

Werner David Feist was born in Augsburg on 3 December 1909. He studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau from October 1927 to April 1930. In addition to attending the compulsory preliminary course with Josef Albers, he also studied with the well-known painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky and joined the advertising workshop headed by Joost Schmidt. When the photography class was inaugurated at the Bauhaus in 1929, the young Feist was by his own account one of the first to sign up for the course given by Berlin photographer Walter Peterhans, and he later became Peterhans’s photographic assistant.

As early as 1928, Feist had already taken part in a poster competition for the public swimming-baths in his home city of Augsburg. His design was the only entry to combine photography with graphics, and this innovation – which he had probably learned at the Bauhaus – earned him first prize. In 1929, Feist again made use of his graphic skills in an exhibition on 'Gas and Water' and in one of the most important contemporary photography exhibitions, 'Film und Foto' (FiFo for short). After leaving the Bauhaus, Feist initially worked as a graphic artist in Prague until 1933 and continued there as a self-employed graphic designer and commercial photographer until 1939. In March 1939, when Prague was occupied by the German army, he fled via Poland to the United Kingdom. He had to leave all of his photography equipment behind in the Czech capital, marking the end of his photographic career.

Portrait of Moses Bahelfer (double exposure), photo: Werner David Feist, 1928. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Portrait of Moses Bahelfer (double exposure), photo: Werner David Feist, 1928. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

Feist served in the British Army from 1940 to 1945. He returned to creative work at the end of the war and became studio director and art director for a London magazine publishing company. In 1951, he emigrated with his wife Ursula (another German emigré) to Canada, where he worked in various institutions as art director and as a teacher of design history.

Feist attracted popular attention particularly through the photographs that he had produced during his apprenticeship at the Bauhaus. The Goethe Institute in Montreal presented his work in one-man retrospective exhibitions held in 1976 and 1985. His photographic work was also exhibited at a group exhibition in 1985–1986 shown at the Musée de l’Art Contemporain in Montreal and at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. In 1990–1991, Feist’s photographic work formed a major component of a touring exhibition entitled 'Fotografie am Bauhaus', organized by Jeannine Fiedler for the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / Museum für Gestaltung.

Kurt Stolp with pipe, photo: Werner David Feist, 1929. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Kurt Stolp with pipe, photo: Werner David Feist, 1929. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

Literature: 
Bauhaus-Archiv/Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin (2012), Werner David Feist: My Years at the Bauhaus / Meine Jahre am Bauhaus, from the series: Bauhäusler. Dokumente aus dem Bauhaus-Archiv 1, Berlin.
Feist, Werner David (2000): After Fifty, Toronto.
Feist, Werner David (1995): My first fifty years, Toronto/Montreal.
Niggl, Reto (1995): Abgebrochene Karriere, Antiquitäten Zeitung München, No. 21.
Schlegel, Franz-Xaver (1995): Werner David Feist. Fotografien am Bauhaus 1928–1930, Augsburg.