(Germany 1900 – 1985)
37.0 x 24.1 cm image; 39.0 x 27.5 cm sheet
‘For us photography was the translation of reality into a readable image.’ Herbert Bayer 1982 1
Herbert Bayer was apprenticed to an architect in Linz, Germany, in 1919 and worked as a graphic designer for the architect Emanuel Margold. Between 1921 and 1923 he attended the Bauhaus where in 1925 he was appointed to teach typography and graphic design. On leaving the Bauhaus in 1928 he moved to Berlin where he practised as a graphic designer for the next ten years as director of the Dorland Studio. It was during this period in Berlin that he took up photography independently from his incorporation of it in graphics. His photographs of geometric solids became the starting point for other artists’ application in advertising; for example, McKnight-Kauffer, who was then working for the Anglo–German company Crawford’s.
Bayer never followed László Moholy-Nagy’s visions for more complex artistic experiments such as typography, preferring instead to take a fairly pragmatic view of communication in advertising. However, like his colleague, he enjoyed taking photographs from improbable viewpoints – in particular, shots from high vantage points, such as the Transport Bridge in Marseilles that Moholy-Nagy also photographed regularly, capturing the grids of the bridge structure in his compositions. In 1938 he moved to New York where he designed the exhibition ‘Bauhaus 1919–1928’ for the Museum of Modern Art.
‘Legs in sand’ is a good example of the high viewpoint; it also shows the Bauhaus tendency to get in close to the subject (for example, the tightly framed portraits of Grit Kallin-Fischer) and to show the body from unusual angles. The photograph was selected by Franz Roh and Jan Tschichold in 1929 for the important exhibition ‘Foto Auge’ in which works were very particularly juxtaposed, with Bayer opposite Brett Weston’s ‘Roofs of corrugated iron’ c1929.
1. Bayer H & Herzogenrath W 1983, ‘Bauhausfotografie’, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart/Goethe Institut, London
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. cat.no. 142
Anthony Bond, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International modernism', pg.93-111, Sydney, 2007, 108 (illus.).
Ute Eskildsen and Jan - Christopher Horak, Film und Foto, Stuttgart, 1979, 120 (illus.).
Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 154 (illus.).
Photo Eye, Exhibition Venue Unknown, 1929–1929
Ten years on, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Jan 1986–Jan 1986
Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 1986–23 Nov 1986
Works from the Photography Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Feb 1989–15 May 1989
International Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jan 1991–14 Apr 1991
Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Mar 1993–09 May 1993