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Archive for December 12th, 2011

The Bauhaus was a school of art and (later) architecture in Germany, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919.  In the first three years of its existence the school’s teaching methods and aesthetics were set by Johannes Itten, an artist inclined to Eastern philosophies and meditation.  He was instrumental in bringing Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee to the school.  The twenties is a time of tremendous energy in German art movements, for example German Expressionism and The Blue Rider, both concerned with the primacy of color.

Itten wrote “The Art of Color” and devised the Color Sphere, shown here.

He abandoned 19th century teaching methods, involving rules and the traditional subservience of color to subject matter.  Instead of color filling in a drawing, color became the starting point.  He discovered that students find color associations that are unique to their temperament and sensibility.  You start with color, he said.  Then you contemplate it and the next color will follow from this contemplation.

This sounds easy.  What could be easier than plopping down a dollop of color.  Turns out, it’s not. When we’re  in preschool, yes, but when we’re adults, there are often too many psychological barriers.

I suggested Itten’s approach in my class.  Through our windows we could hear the wind howling.  The lake was turbulent and muddy, the trees were bare and raggedy.  Elaine C. put a wisp of green on her white canvas. Itten would have noticed, as I did, and he would have kept his meditative distance, as I did.  The colors developed, as if on their own.  I can’t explain how this happens.  But I do know that the painting comes out of the process itself.

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