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Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943)
Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943)


Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943)
watercolour and pencil on paper
22 x 17 in. (56 x 43.2 cm.)
Executed in 1928
Olga Krücke, Wiesbaden, by 1930, and thence by descent.
Leonard Hutton Gallery, New York, by 1973.
Galleria Galatea, Turin (no. 2666), by 1974.
Siegfried Adler, Montagnola, by 1979.
Private collection, Italy, and thence by descent to the present owner.
H. Hildebrandt, Oskar Schlemmer, Munich, 1952, no. 591, p. 145 (titled 'Lehrerin an der Tafel').
Der neue Brockhaus, vol. IV, Wiesbaden, 1959, p. 505 (illustrated; dated '1924').
E. Bender, ed., Deutsches Lesebuch für Gymnasien, vol. V, no. 9-10, Karlsruhe, 1968, p. 97 (illustrated).
K. von Maur, Oskar Schlemmer, Oeuvrekatalog der Gemälde, Aquarelle, Pastelle und Plastiken, Munich, 1979, no. A 369, pp. 294 & 295 (illustrated p. 294).
Berlin, Galerie Neumann und Nierendorf, Oskar Schlemmer und Franz Xaver Fuhr, November 1928, no. 2 (no catalogue).
Stuttgart, Kunsthaus Schaller, Oskar Schlemmer, May - June 1929, no. 16 (no catalogue).
Wiesbaden, Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden, 30 Deutsche Künstler aus unserer Zeit, April - June 1930, no. 114, p. 12.
Dessau, Bauhaus, Oskar Schlemmer, February - March 1932 (no catalogue).
Mainz, Kunsthalle am Dom, Neue Deutsche Kunst, June - July 1947, no. 108, p. 24 (illustrated pl. XV).
Turin, Galleria Galatea, Selezione 11, May - June 1974, no. 31, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'Lezione').

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

Schule is a remarkable work dating from 1928, a year of great importance for the Bauhaus and among the most productive and inspired of Schlemmer’s career. His archetypal, balletic, mannequin-like figure becomes a model teacher in a quintessentially Bauhaus combination of stage and schoolroom. When Schlemmer executed Schule, he was himself a widely-respected teacher at the Bauhaus School in Dessau. Towards the end of the 1920s, he sought to define the ideal human form, perfect in anatomical proportion and practical function.

This watercolour, powerful in its simplicity, offers a vignette from Schlemmer’s ideal world. He depicts a female schoolteacher gracefully performing her role in society, a role which in its practicality, creativity and progressiveness encompasses the spirit of the Bauhaus school. Schlemmer captures in the simple outline of the teacher a vivid impression of elegance and tenderness. Her right hand tessellates neatly with the chalk it holds as she completes a third intersecting line on the blackboard, and her brown hair is drawn to a symmetrical point at the nape of her pink neck. She is viewed from behind, beyond the even rows of her students’ heads—a perspective often adopted by Schlemmer and reminiscent of the theatrical stage, or indeed the life-drawing class. The figure, the planes of the walls and the black void of the chalkboard are integrated with striking harmony. The subtle palette is also typical, favouring delicate shades of creamy white, fleshy pink and tawny yellow, complemented by earthy umber tones and heavily-applied black pigment.

The year 1928 saw vigorous creativity at the Bauhaus in Dessau, and Schlemmer taught a variety of classes relating to the human body, from sculpture and life-drawing to dance and theatre. His avid engagement with the shape and movement of the human figure was bound up with his energetic development of his teaching programme, and the didactic act—the purpose of the Bauhaus—as well as the classrooms of the Dessau school building lay at the forefront of his mind. Schule dates from the height of Schlemmer’s ‘classical’ period, during which he took the human form as his subject and ingeniously applied to it the Bauhaus principle of reducing objects to their purest, functional form, whilst remaining true to their nature. ‘It requires absolute clarity of purpose’ he wrote in his diary, ‘to fight one’s way through to the typical’ (Schlemmer, Diary entry of 16th April 1928, cited in T. Schlemmer, The Letters and Diaries of Oskar Schlemmer, Middletown, Connecticut, 1972, p. 232). Schule is an unusually fully-realised, amply-coloured example of the artist’s attainment during this idealistic year at the Bauhaus; in its single, sparse scene, he distils the human form, its actions and the space it inhabits to achieve a confident, complex admixture of the aesthetic and the practical.

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