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The Art Story Homepage Artists Johannes Itten

Johannes Itten

Swiss Painter, Designer, and Teacher

Johannes Itten Photo
Movement: Bauhaus

Born: November 11, 1888 - Suderen-Linden, Switzerland

Died: March 25, 1967 - Zurich, Switzerland

"He who wants to become a master of color must see, feel, and experience each individual color in its many endless combinations with all other colors. Colors must have a mystical capacity for spiritual expression, without being tied to objects."

Johannes Itten Signature

Summary of Johannes Itten

Trained as an elementary school teacher, Itten joined the first instructors at the Bauhaus, where he was a Master from 1919-1923. His development of the preliminary class of the school revolutionized art education. Instead of having students copy works of the Old Masters, he encouraged them to explore their own feelings and to experiment with colors, materials, and forms. This course emphasized three elements: studies of natural forms and colors, the analysis of canonical artworks, and life drawing. He was a pioneer of holistic art teaching and went on to run his own art school, along with serving at senior positions in renowned art academies.

Key Ideas

Itten's Vorkurs or foundations course at the Bauhaus pioneered techniques that remain central to art school teaching today, including the encouragement of self-expression and experimentation with materials and techniques. All students were required to complete this training before moving onto more specific courses - the course was the starting point of the Bauhaus curriculum.
As a believer in Eastern Mazdaznan, Itten encouraged students to embrace mysticism as part of their art practice. He taught meditation and breathing exercises, as well as gymnastic routines that were designed to maximize creativity. His teachings were adopted by many at the Bauhaus, but when the school adopted a more industrial philosophy, Itten left to found his own private art school in Berlin.
Itten developed an intricate theory of color, which associated color palettes with types of people and seasons. His work on color contrasts, which characterized seven different types of comparisons, was important for the development of Op Art, but would also influence palettes designed by cosmetic companies in the late-20th century.

Johannes Itten Artist Overview Page

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