Johannes Itten

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Johannes Itten
Born 11 November 1888(1888-11-11)
Südern-Linden, Switzerland
Died 27 May 1967 (aged 78)
Nationality Swiss
Field Painting, Drawing, Color theory, Architecture
Training Academy of Arts, Stuttgart
Movement Expressionism
Works Farbkreis (1961)

Johannes Itten (11 November 1888 – 27 May 1967) was a Swiss expressionist painter, designer, teacher, writer and theorist associated with the Bauhaus school (Staatliches Bauhaus). Together with German-American painter Lyonel Feininger and German sculptor Gerhard Marcks, under the direction of German architect Walter Gropius, Itten was part of the core of the Weimar Bauhaus.


[edit] Life and work

Born in Südern-Linden, Switzerland, he studied as an elementary school teacher from 1904 to 1908. Beginning in 1908 he taught using methods developed by Friedrich Fröbel and was exposed to the ideas of psychoanalysis. He later enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva but then returned to Berne, after being unimpressed with the educators there. Itten's studies at the Berne-Hofwil Teachers' Academy with Ernst Schneider proved seminal for his later work as a master at the Bauhaus. Itten adopted principles espoused by Schneider, including the practice of not correcting his students' creative work on an individual basis, for fear that this would crush the creative impulse. Rather, he selected certain common mistakes to correct for the class as a whole.

He was heavily influenced by Adolf Hölzel and Franz Cižek,[1] in Vienna using the work and textbook of Eugène Gilliard, an abstract painter, as a base. From Hölzel, Itten adopted a series of basic shapes (the line, the plane, the circle, the spiral) as a means from which to begin creation, and the use of gymnastic exercises to relax his students and prepare them for the experiences that were to occur in the class.[2]

From 1919 to 1922, Itten taught at the Bauhaus, developing the innovative "preliminary course"[3]which was to teach students the basics of material characteristics, composition, and color. In 1920 Itten invited Paul Klee and Georg Muche to join him at the Bauhaus.[4] He also published a book, The Art of Color, which describes these ideas as a furthering of Adolf Hölzel's color wheel. Itten's so called "color sphere" went on to include 12 colors. In 1924, Itten established the “Ontos Weaving Workshops” near Zurich, with the help of Bauhaus weaver Gunta Stölzl.

Farbkreis by Johannes Itten (1961)

Itten was a follower of Mazdaznan, a fire cult originating in the United States that was largely derived from Zoroastrianism. He observed a strict vegetarian diet and practiced meditation as a means to develop inner understanding and intuition, which was for him the principal source of artistic inspiration and practice.[2] Itten's mysticism and the reverence in which he was held by the students increasingly alienated him from the other leading figures of the Bauhaus, particularly Walter Gropius and Theo van Doesburg, who were moving the school in a direction that embraced mass production rather than individual artistic expression and craftsmanship. The rift led to Itten's forced resignation from the Bauhaus and his prompt replacement by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1923.[5] From 1926 to 1934 he had a small art and architecture school in Berlin, in which Ernst Neufert, the former chief-architect of Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus, taught as well from 1932 to 1934.

Itten's works exploring the use and composition of color resemble the square op-art canvases of artists such as Josef Albers, Max Bill and Bridget Riley, and the expressionist works of Wassily Kandinsky.

  • 1926–1934 Private art school in Berlin
  • 1932–1938 Director of the Textilfachschule in Krefeld
  • 1938–1954 Director at the Kunstgewerbeschule und
  • 1943–1960 Director of the Textilfachschule in Zürich
  • 1949–1956 Director of the Museum Rietberg Zürich, a museum for non-European art
  • 1955 works as free lance painter
  • 1955 colour courses at the HfG Ulm (Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm)

[edit] Influence

Itten's work on color is also said to be an inspiration for seasonal color analysis, Itten having been the first to associate color palettes with four types of people and designating those types with the names of seasons. Shortly after his death, his designations gained popularity in the cosmetics industry with the publication of Color Me A Season. Cosmetologists today continue to use seasonal color analysis, a tribute to the early work by Itten.

[edit] Bibliography

  • Itten, Johannes. Design and form: the basic course at the Bauhaus. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0500285349. 
  • Itten, Johannes. The Art of Color: the subjective experience and objective rationale of color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0442240376. 
  • Itten, Johannes, and Birren, Faber (1970). The Elements of Color: A Treatise on the Color System of Johannes Itten Based on His Book The Art of Color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0-442-24038-4

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Curtis, William. "Walter Gropius, German Expressionism, and the Bauhaus". Modern Architecture Since 1900 (2nd Ed. ed.). Prentice-Hall. pp. 121. ISBN 0135866944. 
  2. ^ a b Droste, Magdalena (2002). Bauhaus: 1919-1933, pp. 24-32. Taschen. ISBN 3822821055.
  3. ^ Ruhrberg, Karl, and Walther, Ingo F. (2000). Art of the 20th Century, p. 177. Taschen. ISBN 3822859079.
  4. ^ *Frampton, Kenneth. "The Bauhaus: the evolution of an idea 1919-32". Modern Architecture: a critical history (3rd ed. rev. ed.). New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, Inc.. pp. 124. ISBN 0500202575. 
  5. ^ Raizman, David (2003). A History of Modern Design, p. 184. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1856693481.

[edit] Further reading

  • Hal Foster, ed. "1923: The Bauhaus … holds its first public exhibition in Weimar, Germany". Art Since 1900: Volume 1 - 1900 to 1944. Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh. New York: Thames & Hudson. pp. 185–189. ISBN 0442240392. 
  • The Color Star

[edit] External links

NAME Itten, Johannes
SHORT DESCRIPTION architect, designer
DATE OF BIRTH November 11, 1888
PLACE OF BIRTH Südern-Linden, Switzerland
DATE OF DEATH May 27, 1967
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