In 1924, the workshop for glass painting became part of the newly established ‘experimental laboratory of the Bauhaus’. The masters who had the greatest influence on the glass and mural painting workshop were Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky and Hinnerk Scheper. The most successful product of the mural painting workshop was the Bauhaus wallpaper, which was produced from 1930.

Orientation plan for the Bauhaus building in Dessau, author: Hinnerk Scheper, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Scheper Estate, Berlin.
Orientation plan for the Bauhaus building in Dessau, author: Hinnerk Scheper, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Scheper Estate, Berlin.

The glass painting workshop was developed from 1920 by Johannes Itten. Paul Klee was its master of form from 1922. Josef Albers, who entered the Bauhaus in 1920 as a student, was appointed as both journeyman and provisional master of works of the workshop for glass painting in 1922. With his stained glass windows for Sommerfeld House and Otte House in Berlin as well as the stairwell of the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, he created the best-known artworks of the glass painting workshop. Due to a lack of commissions, this workshop was merged with the sculpture and stage workshops in the “experimental laboratory of the Bauhaus” in 1924. Here, unlike in the production based workshops, there was plenty of scope for experimentation. The glass painting workshop was closed when the Bauhaus moved to Dessau.

The early works of the wall painting workshop – which was first directed by Johannes Itten, followed by Oskar Schlemmer and Wassily Kandinsky from 1922 to 1925 – included the colour design of toys, furniture and architecture. Due to a lack of other commissions, the first architecture-related assignment of the workshop was the painting of the hallways and refectory in the Bauhaus building in Weimar according to designs by Itten. Various projects were implemented for the Bauhaus exhibition of 1923: For the workshop wing of the Bauhaus, Oskar Schlemmer designed figure reliefs and wall paintings that explored the topic of the “human being” or “types of movements”. Wassily Kandinsky had the range of courses, including aspects of craftsmanship and the psychological effect of colours – documented on the walls of the workshop rooms. Some of the students also designed selected areas of the art school building, employing a variety of techniques. The wall pictures by Herbert Bayer in the side stairway of the main building as well as the colourful wall décor at the Haus am Horn by Alfred Arndt and Josef Maltan were also created in this context.

Shards in a Picture Grid, author: Josef Albers, 1921. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany / © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany.
Shards in a Picture Grid, author: Josef Albers, 1921. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany / © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany.

The Masters’ Houses in Dessau designed by Gropius were individually decorated according to the colour concepts that the masters developed for their respective houses. From 1925 to 1933, Hinnerk Scheper was the head of the wall painting workshop where he had previously received his training. He placed value on not allowing colour to dominate as a design element, instead allowing its application to be governed by the architecture. For him, the colours should reflect the functions of the architectural elements.

Colour plan for the exterior design of the master semidetached houses in Dessau, author: Alfred Arndt, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Colour plan for the exterior design of the master semidetached houses in Dessau, author: Alfred Arndt, 1926. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

The use of colour as a guidance and orientation system was another starting point for Scheper, who lived in Moscow from 1929 to 1931. He developed an advisory centre for his field of expertise and managed a design office while he was here. During Scheper’s absence, Alfred Arndt took over as head of the wall painting workshop. Although the Bauhaus was very critical of the use of wallpapers, the company Rasch of Hanover won an exclusive contract with the school in 1929. The decisive argument here was that the use of industrially produced wallpapers ensured an economical and contemporary wall design in housing developments. The students’ designs for the most successful standardised Bauhaus product were based on insights into structures and the interactions of surfaces and colours gained in the workshop for wall painting.