It’s always an exciting day for a dancer when the Google doodle features an artist. Today’s doodle is an ode to Oskar Schlemmer on the occasion of his 130th birth anniversary, for his contributions to art, puppetry, theatre, and dance. Schlemmer was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school – Staatliches Bauhaus, a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined fine arts and crafts, and was recognized around the world for its approach to design. Schlemmer’s work has been described as a “rejection of the pure abstract, and retention of the human” (not in the emotional sense but in the physical structure of the human body). He represented bodies as architectural forms, where the figure was an interplay of convex, concave and flat surfaces. He was fascinated by movements the body was capable of, and captured his observations in his work.
Schlemmer was the youngest of six children, whose parents both died before he reached his teens. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule – a vocational arts school which existed in German speaking countries in the mid-19th century. The Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart was another one of his alma maters, where he studied under the tutelage of landscape painters Christian Landenberger and Friedrich von Keller. Schlemmer moved to Berlin in 1910 where he painted some of his early works, before returning to Stuttgart in 1912 as an apprentice under Adolf Hölzel. In 1914 he enlisted to fight in WWI, and returned to work under Hölzel in 1918. Schlemmer turned to sculpture in 1919, and was invited to run the mural painting and sculpture departments at the Bauhaus school.
This was followed by being hired as a Master Of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop in 1923, after working at their workshop of sculpture. His most famous work which brought him international recognition was the Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) of 1922, which comprised costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body. There were three acts, three dancers and three colors, twelve scenes with eighteen costumes. He designed the costumes based on cylindrical, spherical, conical and spiral shapes – revolutionary at the time. Schlemmer described his creation as a “party of form and color”. The Triadic Ballet is viewed by many scholars and artists as a precursor to contemporary choreography and modernism.
Space dance, gesture dance, rod dance, hoop dance, metal dance, form dance, scenery dance – Schlemmer used elaborate costumes in his stage ideas and transformed dancers into “artificial” figures which united dance, costume and music. Faceless female figures were the predominant subject in his paintings. He developed a multidisciplinary course at Bauhaus called “Der Mensch” (The Human Being) – a movement which celebrated his themes of the human figure in space; sitting or standing, lying down, walking or stationary. He used Cubism as a springboard for his structural studies, and was intrigued with the possibilities of figures and their relationship to the spaces around them. His characteristic forms are visible in both, his sculptures as well as his paintings. He also immersed his creative urges in stage design, and executed settings for the opera “Nightingale” and the ballet “Renard” in 1929.
Schlemmer left Bauhaus in 1929 and joined the Akademie in Breslau where he painted one of his most celebrated works, the “Bauhaustreppe” (Bauhaus Stairway) in 1932. During WWII, he worked at the Institut für Malstoffe in Wuppertal. He produced a series of eighteen small, mystical paintings titled “Fensterbilder” (Window Pictures) in 1942, his final works before his death a year later.