When the Nazis took power in the 1930s, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius wisely, and daringly, escaped to America. Gropius, along with protégé Marcel Breuer, then landed teaching gigs at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Harvard subsequently amassed, with Gropius' help, a massive collection of "more than 30,000 [Bauhaus-related] objects, from paintings, textiles, and photographs to periodicals and class notes." And now, thrillingly, they have placed the entire collection online for free public viewing.
Marcel Breuer, Chaise Longue [Isokon Long Chair], 1936
Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Coffee and Tea Service: 5-Piece Set, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Hanna Lindemann, 1924-1925
Peter Weller, Study in Malthess Apartment, Berlin [designer: Gustav Hassenpflug], 1937
László Moholy-Nagy, Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Light-Space Modulator), 1930
Some of the images are of the iconic pieces you've come to expect when "Bauhaus" is uttered, like Breuer's B3, and come with accompanying educational text:
Marcel Breuer, Club Chair (B3), c. 1931
Supposedly inspired by the lightweight and strong bent steel tubing of the bicycle he pedaled around the city of Dessau, Bauhaus student-turned-master Marcel Breuer decided to experiment with the material for furniture. Working with a plumber to bend the tubing into shape for prototypes, Breuer's efforts would result in the iconic 1925 Club Chair (B3), manufactured by Thonet, and still in production today. In the 1920s, the name "club chair" might have connoted a heavy, overstuffed chair in a smoke-filled room, set upon heavy rugs and against thick curtains. Yet Breuer's club chair is physically and visually light, radically reduced to the line of chromed steel tubing and the planes of the textile webbing, clearly separating the hard and soft materials' respective functions as structure and support.
Other images are more surprising. Who knew, for example, that Breuer was also contracted to design dorm furniture for Bryn Mawr?
Marcel Breuer, Dormitory Furniture for Rhoads Hall, Bryn Mawr College: Desk, 1938
Marcel Breuer, Dormitory Furniture for Rhoads Hall, Bryn Mawr College: Chair, 1938
It goes without saying that 30,000+ images is going to take a long time to get through, but we think it's well worth your time to start browsing. If you find any other surprises in the stack, please be sure to let us know in the comments!