This is a canvas of considerable dimensions (162 x 114) painted in oil by the German painter Oskar Schlemmer in 1932. And this work is preserved today at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and is there thanks to a donation from Philip Johnson.
This is a very curious fact to get an idea of the paths that artists and their works sometimes travel.
Oskar Schlemmer's Bauhaus Staircase
In the spring of 1933, Alfred H. Barr Jr., founder and director of MoMA, paid a visit to the German city of Stuttgart. One of the things he was interested in seeing was an exhibition ofOskar Schlemmer(1888 – 1943). However, he was not able to see his works, because that exhibition had received terrible reviews, and even intimidating by a Nazi newspaper, so the exhibition ended up being cancelled.
Something that many avant-garde German artists suffered during those years. Therefore, Alfred H. Barr decided to send an urgent telegram to Philip Johnson, who was a regular donor to the museum. And in this telegram he asked her to buy the workBauhaus Staircasefor a future donation. And given that today this work can be seen in the New York museum, it is obvious that the painting was bought at that time.
The play itself presents us with a sceneat the Bauhaus School, whose building had been designed by W alter Gropius, and where Schlemmer himself taught for three years before painting the work. Even the scene can be set perfectly in the city building of Dessau. In addition, this work was presented precisely when he learned that a few months earlier the Nazis had also closed that school of art, design and architecture.
Regarding the work itself, we can see a grid structure, following the principles of the Bauhaus movement, and curiously it is a ladder that everyone climbs, there is only upward movement, with what which pays homage to the optimism that reigned in that school. Something in which the viewer wants to be involved, and for this he does not hesitate to put all the characters with their backs to us so that we can follow them, except for one on the landing who seems to be taking a ballet step, which is also an invitation to go upstairs.
On the other hand, many of the figures appear sectioned by the very margin of the work, as if we were sharing space. Without forgetting that the modular nature of the characters greatly simplifies them, something that serves to provide them with an anonymous humanity, in which anyone could include ourselves.
Finally, if you have the opportunity to visit MoMA, there you can see a work by Roy Lichtenstein, totally inspired by this one, even though they are separated by many years, since this version was made in 1988. In fact, it even has the same title of Bauhaus Staircase, butrecreated with the most emblematic features of Lichtenstein's Pop Art.