Oskar Schlemmer

Stairway Perspectives

1. Oskar Schlemmer, Bauhaus Stairway (1932), oil on canvas
2. Roy Lichtenstein, Bauhaus Stairway (1988), oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
3. Roy Lichtenstein, Bauhaus Stairway – The Large Version (1989), color silkscreen

Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943), painter, sculptor and theatre designer, did his most celebrated work as director of stage research and production at the Bauhaus. He created a provocative series of robotic ballets for the Bauhaus in Weimar from 1923, and at its new home in Dessau from 1926 until he left in 1928. On his painting students ascend the staircase on an ordinary day at the Dessau Bauhaus. They have the rounded, simplified, geometrical bodies that Schlemmer created in his ballets. All but one of the students are walking away from us, up the stairs, towards the huge windows. Only one figure comes towards us, not so much walking as dancing on tiptoes.

As for Lichtenstein, his Bauhaus Stairway is an intensly dynamic tribute to Schlemmer’s work. A year after its completion he picked up the theme again – this time for a mural whose further revision of the original incorporate figures who share space with a helmeted dancer from the German master’s Triadic Ballet.

The Bauhaus stairway now and then: women weaving course, young master Gunta Stölzl in front, 1920.