A couple of months ago, I wanted to discuss the original Bauhaus Manifesto with my students ad reached out to find an appropriate English version. Unfortunately, I found out that many translations that are available on the web are lacking in accuracy with regrards to the original German Version.
With the help of Zoë Shannon, we set out to re-visit existing translations and propose the following version that takes into account some of the nuances of the German Language used in Gropius‘ version:
The ultimate goal of all art is the building! Its ornamentation was once the most noble function of the fine arts; and it was considered an indispensable part of the great art of building. Today, it exists in complacent isolation, from which it can only be salvaged by the conscious and cooperative efforts of all artisans. Architects, painters, and sculptors must recognize and learn a new way of understanding how to grasp the multi-faceted Gestalt of the building, both as an entity and in its separate parts. Only then will their work be imbued with the architectonic spirit it lost in “salon art.”
The old schools of art were unable to produce this unity; how could they, since art cannot be taught. They must be merged once more with the workshop. The mere drawing and painting world of the pattern designer and the applied artist must become a world that builds again. When young people who take a joy in artistic practice once more begin their life’s work by learning a craft, then the unproductive “artist” will no longer be condemned to deficient artistry, for their skill will now be preserved for the crafts, in which they will be able to achieve excellence.
Architects, sculptors, painters – we all must return to craftmanship! For art is not a “profession.” There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, transcending the consciousness of his will, the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in a craft is essential to every artist. Therein lies the original source of creative practice.
Let us create a new guild of craftsmen free of class division that set out to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite everything under one Gestalt: architecture and sculpture and painting, which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.
Walter Gropius, Weimar, April 1919