"I am interested in creating human types, ..... and I am interested in the essence of space, not in 'interiors...." ( Oskar Schlemmer cited in The Letters and Diaries of Oskar Schlemmer, ed. Tut Schlemmer, Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1972, p.361)
In 1928 after a break of nearly three years, Schlemmer returned to painting in preparation for the creation of a series of large murals for the interior of the Folkwang Museum in Essen. Vier Kpfegruppe Blaugrau is one of the first oil paintings Schlemmer executed in preparation for this elaborate project which dominated his work between 1928 and 1931.
One of the most important projects of his career, the commission for the Folkwang murals was the prize given to Schlemmer for winning a competition - in which Heckel and Baumeister had also participated - that had been organised in 1928 by the museum's director, Ernst Gosebruch. The commission required Schlemmer to provide a series of murals that would compliment a monumental fountain of kneeling youths by Georg Minne that dominated the central round hall of the museum. It proved to be a complex and difficult commission: Schlemmer created three completely different versions of the series of nine murals before concluding the project.
Vier Kpfegruppe Blaugrau was executed in Dessau in 1928 shortly before Schlemmer left his teaching post at the Bauhaus to join the Fine Arts Academy in Breslau. Along with a similar composition Graue Jungmnnergruppe it is one of the first fully worked compositions on the theme of a symmetrically ordered group of figures that reflects Schlemmer's concern with creating an intricate and elaborate discourse between the figures of the mural paintings and the youths in Minne's sculpture. As he outlined in a radio interview given in 1930 about his work for the Folkwang cycle, "I resisted the temptation to portray an allegory of life; even though that would have seemed the obvious and conventional approach in such a case. I wanted to respond to the simple gesture of the figures in Minne's fountain by portraying the simple existence of figures, without pathos, without dramatic movement, without telling stories! For the painter or sculptor, simple acts of the human figure, such as inclining the head, raising an arm, gesturing with the hand, moving a leg, provide such an expressive richness that themes such as standing, coming, going, turning, and the like would suffice to occupy an artist's lifetime." (Radio interview broadcast on 30 Nov. 1930 printed in part in Oskar Schlemmer : Monographie und Oeuvrekatalog de Gemlde, Aquarelle , Pastelle und Plastiken (Munich; Prestel-Verlag, 1979, vol. 1, p.194.)
The carefully constructed ladder of form that Schlemmer builds in Vier Kpfegruppe Blaugrau was extended in later compositions to become even more elaborate and dramatic to the point where the strength of the murals clearly overwhelmed the figures of Minne's fountain and forced Schlemmer to attempt a lighter and more spatially expansive approach to the entire project. With its pioneering use of greyed forms and its careful compositional interplay of elegant elongated heads Vier Kpfegruppe Blaugrau is nevertheless an important document of Schlemmer's working aesthetic and his meticulous preparations for one of the seminal if ill-fated projects of his career. For not only did the Folkwang mural project take the artist more than three years to complete but, as with his Weimar murals beforehand, their installation was not to last long. In 1933 on the instructions of the National Socialists, Schlemmer's murals were removed from the museum and, perfunctorily destroyed.