A Collection of Bauhaus Prints, Weimar, 1919 – 1923, Formerly In The Collection Of Ludwig Hirschfeld–Mack Lots 81 – 89

This group of prints, which has come directly from Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack’s family, is a fascinating document of his years at the Weimar Bauhaus, highlighting the diversity and creative range of graphic arts within the school, as well as the nature of the relationships and professional camaraderie that existed between students and teachers. In addition to a number of Hirschfeld-Mack’s own prints made during the early 1920s, this selection includes work by three renowned artists and Bauhaus Masters – as the teachers were known – Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer and Paul Klee.

Hirschfeld-Mack was one of the first students to enrol at the Bauhaus in October 1919 and he began his apprenticeship in the graphic printing workshop, learning various printmaking techniques and mastering the use of the printing press. Undertaking commissions for external clients, as well as limited edition fine art printing, he was involved in the production (and perhaps also the design) of some of the portfolio covers of the Neue europäische Graphik series.1 The two stylised figure compositions by Oskar Schlemmer – Master at the Bauhaus from 1921 – 29 and a close friend of Hirschfeld-Mack – in this group were included in the first of these portfolios, published in 1922, alongside woodcuts, lithographs and etchings by other Bauhaus Masters (Feininger, Klee, Johannes Itten, Gerhard Marcks, Georg Muche and Lothar Schreyer). A significant example of Hirschfeld-Mack’s graphic oeuvre, the lithograph Reaching the Stars, 1922, is an exemplar of his creative skill – ambitious in scale and composition, it may have been submitted as part of the work required for promotion from apprentice to journeyman.2 As he explained, it ‘[represents] the man who was capable of applying technical advances with electricity… in everyday life’3 and the National Gallery of Victoria impression of this print, which is embellished with gold leaf, appears to depict this quite literally.

Part of the Bauhaus staff from its inception, Lyonel Feininger designed the woodcut which illustrated the cover of the 1919 manifesto, and ran the graphic printing workshop from late 1920. Hirschfeld-Mack is known to have printed some of Feininger’s prints during his time at the school, sometimes hand-printing the blocks which, as a result of being carved into cigar box lids, were too fragile to be run through the press. Evidently pleased with the result, the master gifted some of these prints to his student and the example included here, Tahiti, 1920, is characteristic of his woodcuts which skilfully exploit the expressive and textural potential of the medium.4

It was not all study and work at the Bauhaus however, and the year was marked by four annual celebrations which brought together members of both the school and broader communities: the lantern festival, the summer solstice party, the kite festival and Christmas.5 Hirschfeld-Mack remembered, ‘There was a kite festival, when we marched in procession through Weimar to the top of the hill, with hundreds of school children. There were lantern festivals when lanterns made in the workshops were carried through the streets at night.’6 The 1922 Drachenfest, or kite festival, is represented here by two small lithographs by Hirschfeld-Mack. Joyously coloured in vivid red and yellow watercolour, they illustrate figures in the landscape flying striking box-shaped kites. This group of prints also includes a famous lithographic postcard for the 1922 lantern party by Paul Klee – Master at the Bauhaus between 1921 – 31 – which has been delicately hand-coloured and depicts four figures holding their lanterns aloft. A second postcard by Oskar Schlemmer for the same event adopts a different approach, focussing on the paper lanterns and describing their varied forms and bright colours against a black background (the night sky), which is illuminated by a full moon and two sparkling stars.

1. Schwarzbauer, R. with Bell, C., Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack: More Than a Bauhaus Artist, HistorySmiths, Melbourne, 2021, p. 39
2. Ibid., p. 43
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., p. 40
5. Droste, M., Bauhaus 1919 – 1933, Bauhaus-Archiv Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin, 1990, pp. 37 – 38
6. The artist, quoted in Stephen, A., ‘Bauhaus Now!’, Bauhaus Now!, Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne, 2019, p. 12, https://buxtoncontemporary.com/exhibitions/bauhaus-now-exhibition-catalogue, accessed online 20 March 2023