Bauhaus love stories

Anni & Josef Albers

Ever since Anni Fleischmann received a print of Giotto’s “Flight to Egypt” as a Christmas greeting from Josef Albers, she was hooked and fell in love with the “gaunt, half starved, ascetic Westphalian with irresistibly blond hair.” (1) Three years later in 1925, they are married and will be among the few artist couples to significantly shape the Bauhaus until its closure. Amongst others, Josef revolutionises the preliminary course, whereas Anni designs tapestries as unique works of art as well as fabrics for industrial production and temporarily heads the textile workshop. Although they are both connected through their engagement with abstraction for their entire life, they are both active in their own artistic realm. In 1933 they emigrate to the USA and continue their teaching at the newly founded  Black Mountain College in South Carolina, while remaining faithful to their love. Their joint history will last more than fifty years.

Photo: unknown, 1928/29.
Josef and Anni Albers in Dessau, photo: unknown, 1928/29.

Gertrud & Alfred Arndt

The Bauhaus students Gertrud Hantschk had actually planned to become an architect. Shortly after marrying her fellow student Alfred Arndt in Dessau in 1927 she confirms her professional ambitions. In their prenuptial agreement they promise each other to remain athletic, to go on many trips and the “full equality of women and men.” This agreement will not quite come to fruition. Alfred has been active as an architect at the Bauhaus for the building of the People’s House in Probstzella in Thuringia since 1926 and in 1929 follows the call to Dessau to head the interior finishings department. Gertrud also moves, buries her initial professional dream, and takes photos of her husband’s buildings. It is only much later that one will discover the “mask portraits” that Gertrud makes at home out of sheer “boredom”. And thus, she finally steps out of the classical role model to keep on shining as a photographer in the limelight for a long time after the end of the Bauhaus.

Drawing: Gertrud Arndt, 1927.
Prenuptial agreement between Gertrud and Alfred Arndt, drawing: Gertrud Arndt, 1927.

Gunta Stölzl & Arieh Sharon

In 1920 the textile designer Gunta Stölzl notes in her journal: “We humans still haven’t found the form for love and marriage, the same searching that is expressed in all our works is a desperate longing for a new form of life. All marriages are failing or are unhappy. Gropius will get divorced, Feiniger is agonising, Itten is controlled by a vampire.”2 Gunta first chooses to be active and establishes herself as the first and only junior master at the male dominated Bauhaus. The love affair with Marcel Breuer, who she meets in Weimar, fails. In Dessau she then meets Arieh Sharon, who currently oversees the building of the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau as the construction manager. In 1928 they seal their mutual love with a wedding band and in 1929 with the birth of their daughter Yael. In 1931 Gunta leaves the Bauhaus and goes to Zurich, while Arieh makes a name for himself as an architect in Tel-Aviv. Five years later they are divorced.

Photo: unknown. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Gunta Stölzl and Arieh Sharon in the garden of the masters' houses.

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Also Lucia and László Moholy-Nagy or Irene and Herbert Bayer went their separate ways at some point. While other relationships such as those of Lou and Hinnerk Scheper, Elisabeth and Hans Volger or Ise and Walter Gropius lasted till the end of their lives. Often the couples at the Bauhaus did not only complement each other in the private realm, but also artistically and professionally, even if the women often acted in their husband’s shadows. For example, Lucia, as a learned photographer – whose photography significantly shapes our image of the Bauhaus – developed László Moholy-Nagy’s photos; and Herbert Bayer also benefited from his wife’s photographical skills, while Ise Gropius wrote many a text for her husband. The Bauhaus produced at least 70 couples, not counting the numerous extra-marital amours and affairs. One could fill books with the love stories at the Bauhaus. 

  1. [1] Fox Weber, Nicholas (1998): Josef und Anni Albers. Europa und Amerika. Künstlerpaare – Künstlerfreunde, Köln.
  2. [2+3] Stölzl, Gunta (1919–20): Weimarer Tagebuch, 30. September 1919 bis Herbst 1920, Dokumentensammlung Gunta Stölzl, Mappe 153, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

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