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Born: 1888

Died: 1943

Gender: Male

Nationality: German

“My themes – the human figure in space, its moving and stationary functions, sitting, lying, walking, standing – are as simple as they are universally valid. Besides they are inexhaustible.” Oskar Schlemmer.

Oskar Schlemmer was born in Swabia and, after a period studying painting, enrolled at the Stuttgart Academy in 1912. Under Adolf Hölzel, Schlemmer learnt to abandon the style promoted by the Impressionists and instead turned to the Cubists for inspiration. He was fascinated with their ideas of form and composition and the tensions between them. In his painting, sculpture and metalwork, Schlemmer would try to explore new approaches to structure and perspective.

In 1920 Schlemmer went to work as a teacher at the Bauhaus where he remained for nine years. His complex ideas were influential, making him one of the most important teachers working at the school at that time. However, with the rise of the Nazis at the end of the Twenties, Schlemmer’s work was seen as degenerate and he was dismissed from his post. After using Cubism as a springboard for his structural studies, Schlemmer’s work became intrigued with the possibilities of figures and their relationship to the space around them, for example ‘Egocentric Space Lines’ (1924). Schlemmer’s characteristic forms can be seen in his sculptures as well as his paintings. Yet he also turned his attention to stage design, first getting involved with this in 1929, executing settings for the opera ‘Nightingale’ and the ballet ‘Renard’ by Igor Stravinsky.

Schlemmer’s ideas on art were complex and challenging even for the progressive Bauhaus movement. His work, nevertheless, was widely exhibited in both Germany and outside the country. His work was a rejection of pure abstraction, instead retaining a sense of the human, though not in the emotional sense but in view of the physical structure of the human. He represented bodies as architectural forms, reducing the figure to a rhythmic play between convex, concave and flat surfaces, and he was fascinated in every movement the body could make, trying to capture it in his work. As well as leaving a large body of work, Schlemmer has also had his theories on art published and a comprehensive book of his letters and diary entries from 1910 to 1943 is also available.