Bauhaus women in the spotlight

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Bauhaus women in the spotlight
Exhibition view of Koen Taselaar’s tapestry. Photo: Diewke van den Heuvel commissioned by TextielMuseum.

TILBURG.- The TextielMuseum in Tilburg is presenting a new exhibition next month: ‘Bauhaus& | Modern Textiles in the Netherlands’. While male Bauhaus icons such as Marcel Breuer and Wassily Kandinsky have long been a focal point, now the museum is putting the women of this famed institute in the spotlight. The exhibition reveals how weavers Kitty van der Mijll Dekker, Greten Neter-Kähler, Lisbeth Oestreicher and Otti Berger have influenced Dutch textile design.

The weaving department
Textiles have traditionally been seen as the domain of women. Despite striving for equality in the choice of occupations on offer at the Bauhaus, female students were strongly encouraged to opt for the weaving department. This can be attributed to the idea of women as having innate handiwork abilities and a practical approach. Crafts and working with ‘soft’ materials were considered female pursuits and had a lower status than painting or architecture. Although the weaving department often stood in the shadow of the other departments, it is here that the Bauhaus ideals of functionality and affordable mass production flourished. Fabrics made in Dessau are some of the most commercially successful products of the entire school.

Modern fabrics
The weaving atelier in Dessau proves to be a breeding ground for a design vision that is radically different to the reigning norm in the 19th century. The ‘heavy’ and decorative art-nouveau style textiles are replaced by light, airy fabrics with abstract designs, suitable for industrial production. The exhibition takes you into the world of the Bauhaus weaving atelier and reveals the wealth of experimental textiles by teachers Gunta Stölzl (the only female Bauhaus Meister), Anni Albers and students that would later go on to work in the Netherlands. The unique teaching material offers an insight into the creative process: design based on technique, with attention to colour and new materials such as cellophane and steel thread. Through the eyes of weavers Kitty van der Mijll Dekker, Greten Neter-Kähler, Otti Berger and Lisbeth Oestreicher you can see how the Bauhaus ideals shaped their work in the Netherlands, influencing later generations of textile designers and artists.

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