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Oskar Schlemmer

German Painter, Sculptor, Theater Designer, and Choreographer

Oskar Schlemmer Photo
Movements and Styles: Bauhaus, Cubism

Born: September 4, 1888 - Swabia, Germany

Died: April 13, 1943 - Baden-Baden, Germany

"I believe that a more profound mysticism can be shaped using objective depiction of nature. The mysticism of painterly means"

Oskar Schlemmer Signature

Summary of Oskar Schlemmer

Schlemmer's work in the arena of performance was both experimental and subversive. He purposely broke free from the usual constraints and rules of theater and dance, creating completely new versions of the artforms. He was one of the first artists to modernize the genres and his work formed the basis for many modern performance ideas that followed. He also explored painting and sculpture, winning international acclaim for his work and, as a result of this, he was commissioned to produce a number of high-profile murals including a series for the Folkwang Museum in Essen. During the 1920s, he was one of the Masters at the progressive Bauhaus school, working and teaching across a range of mediums. The Bauhaus revolutionized the way in which art was taught and created and Schlemmer is seen as a key figure in shaping its forward-thinking and collaborative ethos.

Key Ideas

Schlemmer was novel in bridging the gap between pure abstraction and representational art. Whilst his work was predominantly abstract, he retained elements of the physical structure of the human body in his paintings, sculptures and performances. He presented people as architectural forms, simplifying the human image and breaking it into its constituent parts.
His theater and dance work combined his interest in the representation of the human body with kinetic studies and an investigation of the relationship between performer and space and he transformed his observations into abstract geometrical and mechanical choreography and costumes. The most famous of Schlemmer's works, The Triadic Ballet (1922), is an important example of this process in action.
Schlemmer's work aligned with Bauhaus thinking on merging art and technology, man and machine. His paintings often present genderless automatons and his dancers moved in unusual and machine-like ways. In relating humans to machines, Schlemmer was at the forefront of a movement to utilize technology to seek a deeper understanding of the human condition.
German poster for <i>The Triadic Ballet</i>, at the Leibniz Academy (1924)

Despite the fact that Oskar Schlemmer's Triadic Ballet was first shown in 1922, his multi-media design aesthetic remains avant-garde today. The video to Lady Gaga’s hit Bad Romance reimagined the German artist’s choreography a century on, to critical acclaim.

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