One of the foremost figures in the influential Bauhaus movement, Oskar Schlemmer gained international fame with his Triadic Ballet.
German artist, choreographer, and stage designer Oskar Schlemmer thrilled the world with his groundbreaking Triadic Ballet.
Oskar Schlemmer was born in Stuttgart on September 4, 1888, the youngest of six children, and had to become completely self-sufficient around the age of 15 following the death of his parents.
After pursuing apprenticeships in inlay and marquetry, began studying at art school in his home city, under the tutelage of prominent German landscape painters.
Just before the First World War, Schlemmer was taken under the wing of Adolf Holzel, an early promoter of abstraction, before being enlisted to fight on the Western Front.
However, he was wounded and spent the rest of the conflict with a military cartography unit in Colmar.
Bauhaus School and the Triadic Ballet
Schlemmer turned to sculpture after the war, exhibiting at Berlin’s Gallery Der Sturm, before becoming one of the most influential figures of the Bauhaus movement, teaching stage research and production at the eponymous school in Weimar.
The Google Doodle celebrating the artist pays homage to Schlemmer’s Triadisches (Triadic) Ballet–the work which brought him international fame–with an animated representation of a seemingly mechanical ballerina in a metal mask.
His groundbreaking 1922 production, which premiered in Stuttgart, featured three dancers, 12 movements, and 18 costumes, breaking convention to explore the relationship between body and space.
Schlemmer described his avant-garde ballet, which went on tour to spread the influence of the Bauhaus, as “a party with form and color,” and “an artistic metaphysical mathematics.”
The preoccupation with theatre which the Triadic Ballet demonstrated was an important factor in his work and influenced future artists such as David Bowie.
Beyond his choreography, Schlemmer pursued his talent for theatrics with work as a stage designer, including for Stravinsky’s opera Nightingale and ballet Renard.
The post-Bauhaus years
After leaving the Bauhaus in 1929, he moved to the Breslau Academy, where he painted Bauhaustreppe (Bauhaus Stairway), his most famous work.
The Wall Street Crash forced the school’s closure, and Schlemmer had to resign his next position in Berlin after coming under pressure from the new National Socialist dictatorship.
A Nazi exhibition of Degenerate Art included works by Schlemmer, and he spent his final years in “inner-emigration” near the Swiss border, before his death in 1943.
This article originally appeared in Inews on September 4, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.