"With all the best wishes in the world, it is impossible to suppress the feeling that there is something essentially heavy, forced and repellent in most of the Bauhaus work. They are under suspicion of being modern for the sake of being modern and not because of any necessities of their system of living."
-so wrote the well-respected art critic Henry McBride (1867 – 1962) in response to the groundbreaking 1938 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, Bauhaus 1919 - 1928. McBride did not mince words in expressing his belief that the Bauhaus was not a genuine art school and that the MoMA showed poor judgment by lamenting it's passing. McBride is remembered as having been a longtime advocate of modernism, a champion of the 1913 Armory Show, and supporter of "the new and untried", but for him, the Bauhaus represented the art of the poseur.
When the architectural community howled in protest upon hearing that the firm of Wallace Harrison (1895 - 1981) was commissioned to design the United Nations Center in 1947, the editors of SCRIPT MAGAZINE dashed-off to ask Frank Lloyd Wright to pick up his quill and ink-up his arguments against the project.
Wright, a bitter foe of skyscrapers and cities, voiced his disapproval in the attached article. Those who are familiar with the high esteem in which Frank Lloyd Wright held himself will not be surprised that he referred to himself entirely in third person throughout this entire article!
Frank Lloyd Wright was a member of the Unitarian religion...
"High-Ranking in the roll-call of New York's industrial designer is a six-foot Dane with the voice of a Viking. Gustav Jensen is an artist, whether he is talking, eating, or performing Herculean labors in cleaning out Plebeian Stables. The creed of the industrial designer is that every implement of modern life can be made into a work of art. Jensen has pursued this creed to fabulous extremes. He has designed kitchen sinks, that have been compared to Renaissance caskets, and he meditates for months before he designs a doorknob...."
The article is illustrated with eleven photographs; the image on the right shows Jensen's design for a table model radio: "The radio is a miracle. It should look like a miracle", remarked the designer.
"This unprepossessing place is the American survivor of a great international movement, the Bauhaus of Dessau, which filled the world with tubular chairs and sectional sofas. The Bauhaus, like so many other things German, drew Hitler's ire because it was too intellectually independent. Hitler dissolved it in 1938...Some fragments of Bauhaus fled to America. Dr Laszalo Moholy-Nagy escaped with some remnants of students' work and saught refuge in Chicago. There, in his concrete warehouse, Moholy-Nagy's movement has taken root."
"They do the oddest things...A chair might just be a double loop of shellacked plywood. It is steamed and shaped so that it has a seat, and a back, and stands on the floor...It doesn't look like much of a chair. It will do the job for which chairs are sold."
Living, as he did, at a time when the average American homeowner was more inclined to prefer a ranch house over a "machine for living" that those vulgar, snail-eating European modernists were capable of creating, American architect George Frederick Keck (1895 - 1980) saw fit to write this spirited defense on behalf of modern design. Playing the part of a modernist missionary seeking to convert the heathens, Keck argued that his tribe of architects - with their understanding of contemporary building materials and respect for simplicity - were suited to create a better standard of living for one and all.