In the summer of 1930, crowds filled Paris’s Grand Palais to capacity. The people were heading to the Section Allemande (German Section), the German Werkbund’s exhibition at the annual Salon of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs (Society of Decorative Artists). Or at least this is what Herbert Bayer, the designer of the exhibition catalogue, must have hoped. On the catalogue’s cover, Bayer filled the partial plan of the Grand Palais with throngs of people, letting them swarm around the German section’s five exhibition rooms (Fig. 1). The anonymous crowd reflects the exhibition’s emphasis on mass consumption, but Bayer’s rendition of it also suggests that they are more than symbolic of content. Crammed together in the plan to enhance the mass effect, the figures are cropped and lit and, along with the shadows cast by a few of the people lingering around the building, they introduce depth into the otherwise flat and diagrammatic drawing. In turn, they signal an important aspect of the rest of the catalogue and the exhibition: that the Section Allemande is a spatial experience, not a set of isolated objects. It is constituted by perception. How visitors to the exhibition and readers of the catalogue experience what is on display brings the Section Allemande to life.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Section Allemande Catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer. Double-layered cover. Reproduced with permission of Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin and © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

The cover makes the relationship between the catalogue and the exhibition explicit along with indicating approaches common to both. Lines running between the rooms of the Section Allemande — highlighted in red on the plan — to the tabs at the edge of the book visualize the connection between the two. The connection gives the rooms a sequence while it marks — and spatializes — the corresponding five sections of the catalogue, previewing the organization of the catalogue down to the details. The connection also puts forward one of the many ideas that the exhibition designers — Bayer and Walter Gropius, along with their former Bauhaus colleagues Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy — had hoped to communicate about modern German design: that design of surfaces, objects and space are different aspects of the same project. The shared approaches, especially the experiments in perception, led to some innovative design solutions throughout the catalogue that not only represent significant changes to typographic and graphic design, as scholars have noted, but also capture an exhibition on the page more vividly than most catalogues that preceded it (Brüning 1982: 133; Brüning (ed.) 1995: 251; Jaeggi 2007a: [7–8]).1

Exhibition catalogues produced up until 1930 for German applied art exhibitions, both independent ones and ones shown in the context of the Berlin art academy exhibitions, are by no means standardized and are frequently marked by inconsistencies even within one edition, but their common features distinguish them from exhibition newsletters, portfolios and thematic volumes, suggesting that the exhibition catalogue is a specific kind of publication.2 Unlike these other publications, catalogues from this period are clearly appendages to exhibitions, their content and often their structure shaped by them. They provide a comprehensive inventory list of the objects on display and sometimes indicate or even emulate the exhibition’s organization by assuming the role of guides. Some catalogues have images, introduced in the late 19th century. They can also augment the exhibition with supplementary information, crucial when there were few or no wall texts outside of labels. Introductions might explain the mission of the exhibition (at times its political dimensions) and who was responsible for it; annotations might describe significant aspects of selected work on display. These texts, often by the artists but also by their colleagues, include descriptions, interpretations, titles and the names of artists, designers, manufacturers and artisans who may not have been identified in the gallery. The catalogues work in consort with the exhibition, prioritizing accessibility to a broad audience. They are most often small, inexpensive and easy to read.3 And they were on sale at the exhibition from the day it opened, making it likely that this was the first and perhaps only publication about the exhibition that most visitors purchased.

Situating Bayer’s catalogue in the context of catalogues produced for similar events — in this case, German exhibitions of applied art, independent or held in the context of art exhibitions, from the first Berlin art academy exhibitions of the late 18th century to the 1930 exhibition’s contemporaries — highlights both the characteristics it shares with its predecessors as well as its radical departures.4 It too is small, and it was inexpensive, costing 75 Pfennig, the equivalent of one issue of the Werkbund’s journal die Form. Like the others, it provides an inventory list, like many of them it has an introduction, and like some it functions as a guide. Like others from the late 19th century on, it is also an illustrated catalogue. But the majority of the images are of installations, not their contents, and this is how the Section Allemande catalogue is different. Bayer accommodates the catalogue type for applied arts exhibitions by listing installations as objects, but he confronts the type by showing installations as display contexts that establish points of view, emulating, idealizing and interpreting the experience of the exhibition. How readers (or exhibition visitors) see an object determines what they see, a design principle that is underscored by the catalogue’s depiction of the same installations more than once but from different points of view. By independently constructing ways of seeing and understanding the exhibition, the catalogue resists being an appendage to the exhibition, despite their close relationship. The approach extends the limited lifespan of the catalogue and follows longstanding attempts (and foreshadows future ones) to cultivate a group of readers beyond exhibition visitors. In 1954, Siegfried Giedion may have viewed it as an important but secondary work, a ‘minor typographical masterpiece’ as he calls it, but as an exhibition catalogue it is of primary significance. It is an unusual essay on the book typology that is conscious of its history while moving outside — to other types of book design and to exhibitions — to transform it (Giedion 1954: 49).5

Judging a Book by Its Cover

The production of a separate catalogue for a small, temporary exhibition was unusual and called out the significance of the exhibition; Bayer’s double-layered cover ensured that visitors would appreciate this (Fig. 2).6 In addition, the dimensional complexity of the cover is emblematic of the contents of the catalogue, specifically the shifts between two and three dimensions throughout it, which were central to the Section Allemande’s insistence on the importance of perception. Taking the Modern position that insisted on a necessary connection between dust jackets and book covers, Bayer starts by doubling the cover and the title, wrapping a cellophane sheet around the printed cover underneath. At the time cellophane was a new material, one that Bayer admired in El Lissitzky’s exhibition design at the 1928 Pressa exhibition (Cohen 1981). For Bayer, the cellophane highlights his attempt to find ways to render the title (and announce the exhibition) other than outlining letters with ink. He embosses the title — in the universal type he developed at the Bauhaus — in the cellophane and, on the printed cover directly underneath, renders it in what he calls a ‘shadow script without outlines’ [konturlose Schattenschrift]. When the covers are viewed separately, the titles are elusive, to be found in the shadows or with the fingertips; when the covers are stacked, the title’s visibility is enhanced, the shadows adding robustness to the volume of the embossed letters.7 The perception of three dimensions introduced by the titles challenge the flat page; the book as object — viewing the covers simultaneously — challenges the reading of each layer in sequence; and tactility — at least in the case of the embossed title — challenges visibility and demands a new way of reading. The cover introduces the perceptual complexity that defines the rest of the catalogue, the exhibition, and the relationship between the two.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Section Allemande Catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer. Reproduced with permission of Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin and © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

The demand for transparency between the cover and the contents of books is notable because transparency is a concern shared by graphic design and architecture, although each has a different response to it. Discussions about graphic design from the 1920s generally integrate two- and three-dimensional thinking by invoking architecture to criticize existing practices and recommend new techniques. Architecture is a part of the rhetoric of the New Typography, which claims functionalism as a central principle and invokes transparency as an important theme. Architecture is also a part of the Werkbund discourse on graphic design. But rather than only emulating architecture by emphasizing the role of the interior as the generator of the exterior design, a 1929 article in the Werkbund journal, die Form, specifies that transparency can work the other way for book designers, who view the cover and especially the dust jacket as ‘a creative opportunity’, one that could to ‘extend its liveliness to the inside of the book’ as opposed to being the equivalent of a façade ([Lotz] and Rehbein 1929: 572, 574).8 Starting with the cellophane and extending to the double-layering, the plan, the collaged figures, the tabs and the unique layout, Bayer’s catalogue cover offers a preview of the book’s contents and his use of new typographic strategies throughout the catalogue. At the time Bayer designed the catalogue for a Werkbund-sponsored event, the strategies were a part of Werkbund discourse. According to the Werkbund journal, they had already been embraced by works in the catalogue’s orbit, including books designed by El Lissitzky and other notable avant-garde designers of the time and publications produced by the publisher Hermann Reckendorf, other than Bayer’s Section Allemande catalogue and the Werkbund journal die Form.9

The title’s emergence out of the shadows and the cover design’s general confrontation with convention capture the tone of the German participation in the exhibition. The French directors of the exhibition hailed the German presence as a diplomatic coup that made the Germans’ absence from exhibitions in Paris since World War One — and presumably their adversarial status — a thing of the past. But the official rapprochement did not entail like-mindedness in design: the difference in the two countries’ displays at the Salon was striking.10 As the crowds actually moved toward the Section Allemande’s democratic vision of modern life, they would have passed through the rest of the exhibition, which offered something very different: a display of luxurious modern interiors by the French. Critics from both countries noted the difference in the way the German displays challenged the Salon’s status quo.11 Rather than ushering the world of privilege into the modern period, as did the French interiors, the five rooms of the German Werkbund exhibition promised that design would bring a new world of communal living to everyone, or at least to all those people swarming toward the Section Allemande on the cover.

The catalogue’s introductory texts — two prefaces and an introduction — make it clear that the rapprochement did not extend to design preferences. Gropius’s familiar claim about the ‘unification of art and technology’ is at the heart of the first preface, which explained the unity as evidence of ‘the spiritual principles of the new time’ and their effect on the ways in which people lived and how their functional objects were produced (Driller 2002: 262; Bayer and Gropius 1930: [1]).12 In addition to capturing the spirit that had animated the Bauhaus, his statement gives a pointed answer to the French displays of luxury goods in the rest of the exhibition, which showed off highly skilled handcraft and an abundance of precious materials. Underscoring Gropius’s point, Wilhelm Lotz’s review of the exhibition in Die Form explains that the purpose of the Section Allemande was to show that ‘everyone should have access to modern design’ (Lotz 1930: 284). On the next page, the preface by Charles Hairon, the vice-president of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs, which sponsored the event, delicately negotiates between the German call for unity in design and the heterogeneity of the French approach. Recognizing the politically momentous nature of the German participation, he insists that the difference between the French and German displays was productive (Bayer and Gropius 1930: [3]).13 But the longer introduction that follows supports Gropius’s call for a unified design ideology by turning to a roster of Germany’s most influential designers, critics, and patrons: Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy along with Walther Curt Behrendt, Adolf Behne, Friedrich Naumann, Hermann Muthesius and Paul Klee (Fig. 3). Their short texts demonstrate a convergence of individual views on a range of issues related to design, from the importance of establishing a unified goal to declarations about modern form, creativity and function.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Section Allemande Catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer, introduction. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Parallel Constructions: The Exhibition and the Catalogue

Although the inclusion of German material was hailed for its significance, the Section Allemande was buried in five awkwardly arranged rooms at the rear of the Grand Palais. But Gropius managed to rationalize the difficult space assignment into an exhibition plan that articulated the continuity between interiors and buildings in a large gallery and, to the side, presented some of the ideologies, principles and objects that underpinned them (Driller 2002: 272; Hemken 1994: 80; Löschke 2015).14 Here, Gropius, Bayer, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy exhibited a ‘vision of modern life’ on behalf of the German Werkbund. The plan centered on two full-scale domestic interiors placed end-to-end in a large gallery.

In the first room, which welcomed visitors to the exhibition, Gropius presented a communal space in an apartment house, a replacement for the salon, composed of a pool, gym and dance floor for the body and a library and informal gathering spaces for the mind. At the center, he installed a bar, which was, perhaps, for both (Fig. 4). In the adjacent room, Breuer exhibited a new vision of an apartment for a man and woman, defined by its gendered spaces and a shared office, kitchen and bathroom (Fig. 5).

Figure 4
Figure 4

Die Form double issue on the Section Allemande exhibition. Page including photo of Gropius’s installation with Tezett bridge in background (Die Form 1930: 284). Photo courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

Figure 5
Figure 5

Die Form double issue on the Section Allemande exhibition. Page including photo of Breuer’s installation from Tezett bridge above; below, view from gallery (Die Form 1930: 288). Photo courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

From the far end of Breuer’s apartment, the large gallery extended into a separate space that contained Bayer’s spectacular display of architectural photographs suspended from cables and models of the newest building designs on an array of pedestals (Fig. 6; see also top of Fig. 5).

Figure 6
Figure 6

Die Form double issue on the Section Allemande exhibition. Page including photo of Herbert Bayer’s installation for Room 5 (Die Form 1930: 292). Photo courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

Opposite, the equally memorable installation of chairs ‘standing’ on the wall flanked the main entry to the room. A bridge between the Gropius and Breuer spaces, made out of the new metal ‘Tezett’ grille, provided visitors with an overview from which they could look down on the full-scale interiors and see the photographs as a backdrop (Fig. 7; see also top of Fig. 5).

Figure 7
Figure 7

Die Form double issue on the Section Allemande exhibition. Page including photo of the Tezett bridge from the entry to the exhibition (Die Form 1930: 287). Photo courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

Two rooms to the side of a large gallery, one designed by Moholy-Nagy and one by Bayer, presented the objects and ideas that were integrated into the interiors and Bayer’s photo display. Moholy-Nagy’s room, containing exhibits on the Bauhaus and industrial culture, displayed lighting, fixtures, theater and film (Fig. 8). Bayer’s room — his second — exhibited mass-produced objects by transforming the gallery into an oversized vitrine (Fig. 9).

Figure 8
Figure 8

Die Form double issue on the Section Allemande exhibition. Page including photo of entry to Moholy-Nagy’s installation above; post office/sales kiosk below (Die Form 1930: 291). Photo courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

Figure 9
Figure 9

Die Form double issue on the Section Allemande exhibition. Page including photos of Bayer’s large vitrine in Room 4 (Die Form 1930: 294). Photo courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.

The Section Allemande clearly presented something very different, which scholars explain in a variety of ways: as a representation of the ideology of the Werkbund — at least its modern faction — at the end of the Weimar Period; as a document of the achievements of Gropius and Breuer as well as of the Bauhaus, a perspective that has been controversial since the exhibition opened; and as an example of the contribution to the then relatively new field of exhibition design by Bayer and Moholy-Nagy.15 In general the exhibition is recognized for its radical social and formal proposals; it combined, as Annemarie Jaeggi summarizes it, ‘an uncompromising design approach with a new social model — the vision of modern life in a high-rise apartment building’ (Jaeggi 2007a: [3]).

The exhibition introduced the new social content with a uniform formal approach to the designs that filled the rooms, consistent with Gropius’s ideals and confirmed by the responses of the critics. But it presented the content to visitors in a highly diverse set of encounters constructed by the installations — a staple of the applied art exhibition, including the Paris salon — which changed the way in which the new interiors and objects were seen. Their effect — the sequence they established, the spaces they made and the vantage points they created — were equally if not more important than the design of their components. The catalogue does the same, using the installations to shape the reader’s encounter with the content. It unfolds in parallel to the sequence of the installations in the exhibition and captures their spaces and vantage points on the page to bring readers into the exhibition. The claim that exhibitions and their publications posed similar design challenges was widely acknowledged when Bayer produced the catalogue for the Section Allemande. Texts from the 1920s and subsequent scholarship about the period — on graphic design and the new typography, on El Lissitzky and Bayer — freely associate the design strategies for books and exhibitions (Bayer 1967; Gough 2010; Aynsley 2000). Echoing the Bauhaus strategy for the print workshop, where he was a master, Bayer’s 1967 monograph unifies graphic design, typography and the emerging field of exhibition design under the heading ‘visual communication’ (Bayer 1967: 17).16 Exhibition design is a ‘new language’, according to Bayer, a part of the field of design that emerged in the 1920s and was based on the spatial deployment of ideas (Bayer 1967: 31). Moholy-Nagy’s essays and his designs for the Bauhaus books during the same period support this view. They conceive of the page as a space rather than a surface, freeing graphic design from rigid formal principles and the goal of uniformity to best reflect the varied perception of content, however uniform that content might be (Brüning 1995: 115; Moholy-Nagy 1923: 141; Moholy-Nagy 1927: 38). The impression that the experience of the 1930 exhibition and Bayer’s catalogue are ‘cut from the same cloth’ finds its justification in this new conceptual and, in turn, disciplinary context.

With his kaleidoscopic portrait of the Section Allemande, Bayer frees his catalogue from conventional expectations associated with the design of books and allows the reader to soak up the constantly changing experiences of the exhibition. The page layout seldom repeats, an approach that Moholy-Nagy and Jan Tschichold, as champions of modern typography, would have heartily endorsed, given that flexibility in the layout is a part of their demand for functionality.17 Using the small horizontal A5 format and the limited palette of black, white, gray and red, typical of the time, Bayer lets chairs scatter and filmstrips flutter across pages that portray the exhibition’s five rooms in sections, each with its own character (Fig. 10; see also Fig. 17). For the rooms exhibiting domestic spaces at full-scale, designed by Gropius and Breuer, full-page perspectives and, for Gropius’s design, a fold-out page, give the reader a dizzying view of the installations, often from mid-air (see Figs. 15 and 22). Bayer’s well-known section-perspective recreates his own installation of architectural photographs, showing how they are freed from the wall of a third room. He renders the viewer’s head as a giant eye and traces specific lines of sight to justify the arrangement of the photographs in the display (see Fig. 18). In contrast, the catalogue interprets rather than depicts Bayer’s installation of a series of chairs opposite the photographs, scattering them across his hallmark sketch of a seated classical figure to suggest their fundamentally universal design (see Fig. 17). Smaller axonometric drawings give a sense of the space in the other two rooms, one containing Moholy-Nagy’s combined exhibition on Bauhaus and the transformative potential of light, the other, Bayer’s exhibition of mass-produced goods (see Figs. 19 and 20). In addition, photographs position and frame some of the objects as they are exhibited, one as if it were seen through a telescope (see Figs. 12 and 14). Images generally dominate the book: they cluster in groups or stand alone; they converge in surrealist-inspired layers and collages or are connected by dotted lines; they respect the rectilinear field or, in a celebration of modern typographic freedom, tumble across it, landing at odd angles. Each of the five rooms has a tab to locate it in the book, a key plan to locate it in the exhibition and arrows to ensure that visitors followed the right path (see Figs. 12, 15, 16, 18 and 21).

Figure 10
Figure 10

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 2. Representation of film projection on left; theater models on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Within a graphic landscape where the images are central, the appearance and placement of the text reduces it to the status of captions; the text is almost always associated with images of installations and objects on display. All of the captions are bilingual with boldface distinguishing the French from the German. Some of the texts, especially those on the first page spread, positioned to explain the key plans and the images of entire installations, offer physical and functional descriptions (and, in Gropius’s case, interpretations) similar to entries from the art academy catalogues from a century earlier, whose descriptions appeared at the discretion of the artist.18 The text is set in Akzidenz-Grotesk, announcing the exhibition’s modern character and associating it with the Werkbund. The type was the hallmark of the publisher Reckendorf. Most certainly recognizable to readers and visitors as the one used for captions in die Form, the type underscores the text’s supporting role in the book and asserts the connection to the Werkbund (see Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).19 But Bayer does emulate the Werkbund journal in every detail. The captions’ exclusive reliance on lowercase letters in the catalogue, in contrast to those in Die Form, indicates the exhibition’s affiliation with the Bauhaus. It is part of the typographic strategy that Bayer developed at the school and was emblematic of Gropius’s work since his time as director.20

The important exception to the use of Akzidenz-Grotesk is in the sections of polemical text translated into French, which are rendered in the type used in mechanical typewriters. It appears in the introductory statements on modern design and in Moholy-Nagy’s essay about the genesis of the Bauhaus (Fig. 11; see also Fig. 3). Printed in white on a dark background — either black or red — the text is consistent with Moholy-Nagy’s use of the reverse technique in his designs for the Bauhaus books published between 1925 and 1930, suggesting that his work set an example for the catalogue (Brüning 1995: 115; Sudhalter 2009).21 For French speakers, this rendition of the polemical catalogue texts lends immediacy and urgency to the calls for design reform — for the unity of design approach; the definitive role of function, material character and technology; the dominance of architecture; and a recognition of the significance of the Bauhaus — as if they had been banged out on the typewriter a few minutes earlier. But the raw appearance of the design polemic and its attention-grabbing color reversal not only appear to be conceits of the catalogue design. They also identify the text as part of the exhibition, consolidating and imitating some of the text panels on display.22 At least visitors to the exhibition — if not all readers — would have understood the pages with the typewriter text in French as images of panels in the exhibition and, in turn, would have viewed the German text on the opposite page as a caption for the image’s French content. Part image of the exhibition, part explanatory text, Moholy-Nagy’s Bauhaus essay (and, by extension, the modernist polemic in the introduction) suggest that the catalogue and the exhibition are more than associated; they are deeply intertwined.23

Figure 11
Figure 11

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 2. Post office used as catalogue sales kiosk on left; the text on the Bauhaus on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

The Catalogue as Guide

Starting with the sequence, the exhibition enforced a particular point of view. The catalogue as guide was indispensible to ensuring this, and Bayer’s enhanced version of previous exhibition guides is commensurate with the urgency of the task.24 Visitors needed a guide because the orchestrated sequence of the installations — referred to as ‘Rooms’ — confounded what was suggested by the spatial logic of the spaces. Rather than allowing the large gallery to dominate the two side ones, the numerical sequence assigned to the rooms, reinforced by the judicious placement of arrows and elements such as partition walls and the bridge, led visitors on a path that alternated between the two kinds of galleries. The catalogue translates the exhibition’s cues into a set of innovative devices that provide a new experience of the book as they reinforce the unexpected sequence of the exhibition. Tabs, which were characteristic of Bayer’s work, are crucial, announcing the catalogue’s function as a guide and indicating the sequence of rooms (see Fig. 1).25 Like the embossed title, the tabs add a tactile experience to the visual encounter typical for reading a book. By replacing the milestones laid out in the table of contents with a device that alters the contours of the outer edge of each page, Bayer lets his readers use their fingertips to locate each section in terms of thickness or depth instead of length determined by page number. Tabs give the catalogue structure in the third dimension, reconfiguring the linear experience of reading in parallel to the room numbers’ reconfiguration of the experience of the exhibition.

Tabs were novel but not unique in book design in the 1920s. In his exemplary design for Vladimir Mayakovsky’s collection of poems Dlia golosa [For the Voice], El Lissitzky uses tabs to mark the location of individual poems. This enhances the spatial character of the book and, as Maria Gough points out, the potential for a reader’s ‘dynamic encounter’ with it, in keeping with Lissitzky’s move between architectural installations and graphic design at the time (Gough 2010: 27–28, 43). Although the tabs were intended in the first place to help Mayakovsky locate the poems as he performed them, Gough explains that Lissitzky’s goal for all readers is similar: to transform reading into a physical activity, into movement and sound.26 Tabs also serve Lissitzky’s goal to engage a broad group of readers by deploying an otherwise familiar device. In 1925 he wrote that the future of graphic design would be based in printed matter found in daily life (Gough 2010: 32).27 ‘Explicitly utilitarian and commercial genres of printed matter’ provided Lissitzky and Bayer with ample models featuring tabs: the address book (at least for Lissitzky), the bookkeeper’s ledger and file cards. Moreover, they are cited, together with Lissitzky’s work, as examples to follow in the 1929 issue of Die Form dedicated to functionalism in book design (Gough 2010: 32; [Lotz] and Rehbein 1929: 573, 576).

While the tabs in Bayer’s catalogue order the rooms within the exhibition, the key plans — the small, diagrammatic plans at the beginning of each section — and their arrows orient readers and exhibition visitors to the location of each room by highlighting it in red (see Figs. 12, 15, 16, 18 and 21). Limited by their small size, the plans only indicate the peripheral walls, the structural columns and the bridge when it is a part of the visitor’s path. When the key plans focus on other parts of the sequence, the bridge is absent and the plan emphasizes the sweep of the large gallery. There is also no trace of Moholy-Nagy’s and Bayer’s displays or of Gropius’s and Breuer’s full-scale rooms in any of them. Instead, the catalogue treats the installation armatures as contents of the room, like the objects on display. The armatures are presented first, followed by objects in the order recommended by the arrows marking the sequence on the key plan. The arrows produce an exchange between exhibition and catalogue: they allow visitors to read the exhibition by following the structure of the catalogue, and readers can locate the contents of the catalogue in the spaces of the gallery.

Figure 12
Figure 12

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 2. Inventory list on left; captions for images on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

The mutual dependency of the exhibition and the catalogue was clearest toward the end of the visit, where the designers required visitors to pass through the last room in the main gallery (Room 5) and look at the side gallery first (Room 4). To ensure that the visitors viewed the exhibitions in the correct order, Bayer wrote a modest note on the key plan of Room 4 to French-speaking visitors to assure them that the path traced by the arrow was correct and that they would not miss the last gallery (see Fig. 18 left). The simple ‘on visitera la salle n.5 en dernier lieu’ (‘One will visit Room 5 last’) directed them to double back. They were to move past Bayer’s wall of photographs to the adjacent room filled with mass-produced goods and admire the architectural photographs afterwards, as the climax of the visit.28 The note showed the designers’ insistence on their sequence while acknowledging its confusion for visitors and that it was essential for the catalogue to intervene.

Arrows on the key plans ensure that visitors followed the correct path whether they were reading or walking. On the one hand, Bayer’s arrows are timely. Arrows appear in different roles in the works of El Lissitzky, Bauhaus artists and designers such as Paul Klee and Moholy-Nagy, and many Dada artists (Droste 1982: 64; Gough 2010: 35–36). They engage readers by directing their gaze, as they do on Bayer’s key plan and elsewhere, whether in a grand spray leading the gaze of the giant eye to each of the photographs in his novel installation or in the more subtle method that deployed parentheses (used earlier by Lissitzky in the journal G, for example) to grab a part of the Tezett bridge and an arrow to pull it across the spine of the book for a more detailed examination (see Figs. 14 and 18). Dada artists turn this approach into critique by using arrows to call attention to the act of reading (Gough 2010: 36). Despite their didactic overtones, the associations arrows produced are often unexpected and even ironic. On the other hand, Bayer’s arrows have a direct precedent in the catalogue for the exhibition that was the catalyst for the establishment of the Werkbund: the Third German Applied Arts exhibition held in Dresden in 1906. Here, arrows rescue visitors from getting lost in an exhibition whose gallery numbers did not correspond to any logical sequence. They may also have reinforced the strong ideological position that governed the exhibition by ensuring that visitors, in following the prescribed sequence, submitted to the intentions of the exhibition’s organizers. The result in the 1906 catalogue is a network of red arrows that promised an almost forbiddingly complex path through the exhibition but make for a spectacular show across the drawing.

More generally, Bayer’s catalogue enhances the function of the exhibition catalogue as guide, following a longstanding strategy to make exhibitions accessible. Guides were typically produced for permanent exhibitions as early as those showing German private collections in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Separate illustrated guides to the configuration of the artworks on the wall do exist from the time, such as the 1763 plan of the display in the gallery at Sanssouci at Potsdam, but in the catalogues the visual information is limited because of the expense and difficulties associated with including images in books in a small format (Locker 2006: 231).29 Several catalogues do contain plans, some with fold-out ones at the end of the book, including the catalogues for the antiquities collection in Dresden (1798) and the painting galleries in Vienna (1783), Munich (1810), and Dresden (1826) (Boller 2006: 134; Pilz 2006: 162; Granzow 2006: 343; Schryen 2006: 294). Although they could not represent the gallery in great visual detail, the organization of entries in the catalogues from this period provides orientation because it corresponds to the organization of works in specific gallery spaces. Some are more refined, elaborating with text or implementing a numbering system that reflected the arrangement of the artworks and followed a standardized pattern around each room.30 More detail about the installation made exhibitions more comprehensible, but at a price. After the first catalogue was published for Düsseldorf in 1719, the overseer of the collection felt compelled to promise to keep the hanging as it was so that the catalogue would not quickly become obsolete (Koch 2006: 105). Catalogues for the permanent collections of German art museums in the late 19th and 20th centuries continue the tradition of combining the catalogue and guide with their organization and plans, labeled if the rooms corresponded to specific schools, time periods or genres of art. They seldom indicate a more specific sequence. One exception is a late 19th-century catalogue of Berlin’s Applied Art Museum, which provides lengthy descriptions of the ideal tour rather than using arrows to indicate it on plans of the museum, even though plans are included in the book.31

The historically close relationship between catalogues and the spatial arrangement of works of art in exhibitions appears to be a luxury of permanence. Starting in the late 18th century, last-minute submissions and rearrangements characteristic of the annual Berlin academy exhibitions and most temporary exhibitions became obstacles to documenting the placement of the works of art in the catalogues. The number of appendices to and editions of many of the academy catalogues, which increased during the 19th century, indicate how difficult it was to keep up with the contents alone.32 The situation became worse over time. For the early years of the academy exhibitions, from 1786 to 1791, the catalogues capture the general organization of the installation because of one important and stable factor: the rank of the artist, which determines the structure both for arranging works of art and for listing them in the catalogue. They are organized according to room (there were only three or four), and works are listed under the name of the artist, which includes title and therefore rank. While the exact placement of the work in the exhibition is unclear, the organization of the catalogue represents the general organization of the exhibition, albeit in reverse: the catalogue begins with the most important members whose work was exhibited in the final room as the culmination of the exhibition sequence. After this short period, the spatial arrangement is mostly lost in the catalogues of the annual art exhibitions. Throughout the catalogues from the 19th century and into the 20th, room numbers appear, disappear and reappear but are not always the basis for the organization of the entries. Many of the catalogues do provide plans of the exhibition building, but the arrangement of the galleries was often complex, making it difficult to establish a straightforward numerical sequence and, in turn, consistently associate a number with a space, never mind with its significance. Instead most catalogues favor an organization based on the hierarchy of the various artistic disciplines, which bears little or no relationship to the rooms in which the works of art were located.

Exhibitions of applied arts restored the connection between the catalogue and the installation as they emancipated themselves from art exhibitions in the late 19th century by placing importance on the installation, often a functional room. In a shift from the exhibition strategy of the art academy — no doubt inspired by Siegfried Bing and the interiors Henri van der Velde designed in 1895 as displays for his gallery — the applied arts exhibitions gradually replaced the individual presentation of objects with an integrated display of objects in a coherent interior space. By the turn of the century, the rooms played a primary role in the applied arts section at the Berlin academy exhibition (called the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung (Great Berlin Art Exhibition) since 1893) and at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs, the event that sponsored the Section Allemande more than two decades later.33 The catalogues for the German exhibitions list the rooms as the primary objects on display and use them as organizing principle for the lists of their contents, except when the contents are left out. The 1901 catalogue for the applied arts section of the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung only lists the rooms, indicating that the whole was more important than any of its contents.34 The emphasis on the room as the object on display was reinforced in some exhibitions by a name change for the section of the exhibition from ‘Applied Art’, which emphasized the contents of a room, to Raumkunst, or ‘Spatial Art’, which emphasized the room as the work of art and suggested, like in 1901, that its contents were an integral part of it. The dominance of the rooms in the Section Allemande and their centrality in the catalogue is a consequence of the new term and the new attitude it expressed.

The Catalogue as Inventory List

The role of the catalogue as a guide and the primary role of the rooms also impress themselves on the structure of the Section Allemande catalogue. They reconfigure the inventory lists of objects on display, directly implicating it in the ways of seeing the exhibition. The inventory list is definitive for most art and applied art catalogues published up to that point. Bayer’s catalogue, like its contemporaries of the 1920s, uses the rooms, grouped by their tabs, to establish an order that mirrors the experience of the space, replacing artistic discipline as the organizing principle for the lists.35 Moreover, the alphabetical lists of designers that might have been associated with each discipline or each room is replaced by lists of objects whose specific order follows the sequence designated by the arrow in the key plan. But Bayer does not only treat the two functions of the catalogue — exhibition guide and inventory list — as an integrated project. His choice to print the inventory lists in French alone suggests that he distinguishes between two groups of readers: the French-speaking visitors to the exhibition, who used the catalogue as a guide, and the French and German readers, for whom the catalogue is both a documentation of the exhibition and a source of ideas about German design (Fig. 12).36

In contrast to the inventory lists, the image captions are in both German and French. Bayer emphasizes their difference by publishing them on the same page and allowing information to repeat, although the order and detail varies. The captions identify specific objects and their designers and often provide descriptions, while the inventory is structured by the type of object and lists designers, fabricators, manufacturers and installers accordingly. The opening page of Moholy-Nagy’s Room 2 and the two-page spread showing Bayer’s jewelry display in Room 4, for example, mention certain designers twice. Bayer uses color, though not perfectly systematically, to distinguish the two formats for conveying information: red for the list, which refers text directly to the exhibition and black for the captions, which refer to images in the catalogue. The dual strategy accommodates two separate audiences for the book.

The catalogue’s grouping of objects and their makers into rooms that themselves are display objects is highly suggestive as regards fundamental aspects of authorship and design and the relationship between the design object and its representation. Individual achievements become contributions to a collaborative design effort, and representing an object becomes part of the design process. Bayer’s lists are unlike the old hierarchical or alphabetical lists of objects and designers. The designers, manufacturers and installers responsible for the room, which was the largest object, are at the head of the lists, followed by those responsible for the objects the room contained, listed according to the sequence of the visit. The lists for two of the rooms (Rooms 4 and 5, designed by Bayer) add the makers of representations to the end: the model-makers, the delineators and the photographers who supplied images both to the exhibition and the catalogue, giving equal regard to the design of the content on display and to the design of its representation. Bayer uses the same format on the back cover of the catalogue to credit himself as the designer of the exhibition poster and, together with the printer, H.S. Hermann, as the designer of the book.37 The catalogue entries insist that the exhibition, catalogue and printed matter are part of the same project, although subject to a hierarchy that puts the exhibition first.

Despite their emphasis on inclusiveness and collaboration, the lists also reinforce the hierarchy of the earlier applied arts catalogues by asserting that the rooms take precedence and that the designers of the rooms were the first among equals. Echoing the exhibition, where a sign identified Gropius, Breuer, Moholy-Nagy and Bayer as the respective designer of each room at its entrance, the catalogue identifies them as the designers of each room on the first page of each section next to or under the key plan (see Figs. 12, 15, 16, 18 and 21). Whether they designed functional spaces on display (Gropius and Breuer) or exhibition installations that served as communication devices for the objects on display (Moholy-Nagy and Bayer), the exhibition designers all have the same status in the catalogue as they did in the exhibition. Only Gropius in his role as the artistic director of the entire exhibition is listed separately on the catalogue’s first page. His name is at the head of a list of administrators rather than at the end. Challenging the conventions of academy catalogues, the emphasis on the artistic director as one of the most important contributors to the exhibition is in keeping with — even improving — the format of the Werkbund and other catalogues for applied art (and later architecture) exhibitions, whose goal of a coherent vision for the entire exhibition places value in the artistic director as one of the most important contributors to the exhibition.38

The Illustrated Catalogue

The primary role assigned to the installation designer resonates with one of the most unusual features of the catalogue: views of the installation dominate its pages. Many of the exhibition catalogues published before Bayer’s include plans and diagrams to function as guides, but relatively few include images of the objects on display due to financial and logistical circumstances. Illustrated catalogues for the Berlin academy exhibitions, which appear after 1881 and disappear after World War One, use engravings, lithographs and ultimately photographs to depict the objects on display in isolation, without any indication of the installation. In earlier versions, the images are integrated in the text; in later versions, they are in a separate section at the end.39 Occasionally, budgets and promises of longevity allowed 18th and 19th century catalogues of permanent collections to include views of the objects in the installations, often in large formats. In some cases, it was possible to include accurate engravings of the hanging on the gallery walls, in one case even complete with miniature versions of the paintings.40 But logistical and perhaps financial constraints were most likely in the way of including installation views of the most dedicated applied arts exhibitions, notably in the grand catalogue for the 1906 applied arts exhibition in Dresden. Probably for the same reason, the photographs turn up in later publications produced by the exhibition committee, for example, in a lavish book depicting the interiors — excised from the exhibition building — called Die Raumkunst in Dresden 1906 [Spatial Art in Dresden 1906] and an exhibition newspaper published during the event (Dritte Deutsche Kunstgewerbe Ausstellung Dresden 1906: Ausstellungs-Zeitung [The Third German Applied Arts Exhibition, Dresden 1906: Exhibition Newspaper]).

With his liberal use of images, Bayer appears to have overcome logistical and technical hurdles to producing the illustrated catalogue. The exhibition’s emphasis on mass production relieves the pressure of depicting the exact object on display and reduces the worries about inaccuracy due to the fluctuations in content that typically occur until exhibitions open. It also allows Bayer to select photographs whose atmosphere and composition are important components of the image. Accompanying the introductory statements and the installations, the photographs lend the exhibition a modern, industrial character (see Figs. 3, 12 and 19).

Context, including atmosphere, shapes the photographs and provides content. In addition to depicting objects in particular locations, the photographs have shadows and other dramatic lighting effects or are cropped, layered or engaged in drawings to position them in space. Many of these techniques, which give the catalogue a dimensional complexity, are announced on the cover (see Figs. 1 and 2). Shadows articulate the title on the second cover to provide a counterpoint to the literal three-dimensionality of the title embossed in the cellophane. Cropping the larger figures, along with adding shadows, enhances their stereometric appearance in and around a two-dimensional plan. Inside the catalogue, the play between two and three dimensions becomes intense in Bayer’s representation of Moholy-Nagy’s film program, where he flattens photographic images by framing them within a drawing of a filmstrip, which he then projects in space and allows to flutter across the page, showing off the pliability that gives the filmstrip depth (see Fig. 10). Next to it, a geometric projection of a photograph enclosed in a single frame locates the actual projector on a plan of the room. Bayer’s use of layering, so exquisitely displayed in his cover design, also adds physical and conceptual depth to the inside of the catalogue. For example, he allows an explanation of his universal type to converge with an image of the type itself or associates his rendering of the display of contemporary chairs with the timelessness of the act of sitting, illustrated on the final page by his hallmark sketch of a classical figure on the surface behind the chairs (see Figs. 16 and 17). In the exhibition, the catalogue was implicated in a more programmatic use of layering: the use of the exhibition’s model post office, designed by Robert Vorhoelzer, as a sales kiosk for the catalogue. The tension did not go unnoticed by critics (Lotz 1930: 283) (see Figs. 8 and 11).

Unlike previous catalogues, the catalogue is dominated by drawings and the techniques inspired by them. Although this may have been the consequence of an early publication deadline, which Reckendorf would not compromise by waiting for installation photos, Bayer exploited the situation (Driller 2002: 267–268). The Section Allemande catalogue is an essay on drawing, the variety of approaches showing the different ways in which two dimensions can represent the three-dimensional experience of the exhibition. Like the placement of the names of the designer of each room at the head of each section, the drawings call attention to the importance of the installation designs, which position the objects and visitors in space, and to Bayer’s regard for them as an important part of visual communication. While the key plans, arrows and organization of the book guide readers through the exhibition as they did visitors, the three-dimensional depictions of the rooms and their contents — the perspectives, a section-perspective, axonometric drawings and an ensemble of a plan and elevations that could be folded into a small model — establish physical points of view. As Annemarie Jaeggi explains, all four of the designers sought ‘to change the perception of architecture, applied arts and utilitarian objects with novel installation techniques’ (Jaeggi 2007a: [6]). The drawings and the photographs likewise suggest that ways of seeing the exhibition lead to ways of understanding it.

Bayer’s confrontation with expectations about perception characterizes his general approach to exhibition and typographic design. As Magdalena Droste argues, creating space on a flat surface is a central principle for Bayer, one that, among other techniques, links Bayer’s work to surrealism and its destabilizing of perception. He frequently uses the technique in his advertising work, his poster for the Section Allemande, with its shifts in space and scale, being one compelling example (Droste 1982: 71). In 1931 H.K. Frenzel, the influential editor of Gebrauchsgraphik, described Bayer’s transformation of the advertising brochure in terms of the ‘new and surprising effect [he created] by means of unusual angles of vision’ (Frenzel 1931: 7). One year earlier, Bayer had already turned the strategy on exhibition design as well as the catalogue, most evidently in the last room, where he suspended photo panels by wires, a technique that he continued to use for decades after World War II. His goal was to extend ‘the field of vision to utilize other than vertical areas and to add new interest’ (Bayer 1967: 32) (see Fig. 6). The bridge, which enabled viewers to look down into Gropius’s and Breuer’s rooms in the 1930 exhibition, was also an example of the strategy (see Fig. 14). As Lotz remarks in his review in die Form, the bridge ‘shows that the bird’s-eye view provides one with the advantage of having an overview of the rooms’ (Lotz 1930: 282). While it was Gropius who designed the bridge, elevated platforms and ramps mattered to Bayer too, evident in his later exhibition designs, such as the Road to Victory exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942, where their use enabled him to free many of the photographs from the walls of the gallery (Bayer 1967: 64–65). In general, Bayer wanted to move beyond content to ‘change the way a visitor perceives the exhibition’. This included allowing the content to reshape the environment.41 At the same time, Bayer made sure that, however inventive the display armatures had to be to accomplish this, they would not distract from the ‘displays themselves’ (Bayer 1967: 30, 72). His photo installation for the Section Allemande, in which he suspended the content in mid-air, was a good case in point.


The drawings of Gropius’s installation are true to the exhibition but they orchestrate a different experience of it. They put readers directly into the space of the exhibition, turning their attention to the Tezett bridge, which provided the most spectacular perspective of the exhibition. But while visitors would have wandered through Gropius’s exhibition on the ground, moving by the pool, dance floor and bar to see the library and the gym before they had an overview from the bridge, readers enjoy an overview of the space first. The plan and elevations offer them an analytic view, the perspective drawings that follow offer a bird’s-eye and wide angle views and two close-ups at the end show them detail. In the exhibition, the bridge was the first thing visitors noted, according to Giedion’s review (Giedion 1930b: 430).42 In the catalogue, by contrast, it is elusive. The bridge is first shown on the plan of the installation, revealed in the shadow as a fine grid cast on the floor (see Fig. 22). In the perspective on the next page, drawn by Bayer, the bridge is invisible but crucial: readers are standing on it, from where they get a clear and realistic overview of the main components of Gropius’s installation from right above the entry (Fig. 13).

Figure 13
Figure 13

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 1. Inventory list on left; image of installation on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Only on the third and final page spread of the section does Bayer fully reveal the bridge in a perspective with a wide-angle counter-shot from floor level (Fig. 14). Then, with the aid of a bracket and an arrow, the view shifts and closes in on the bridge as if it were now seen through a telescope, suggested by the round frame of the next image. Accompanied by Gropius’s caption and a detail tumbling out of the frame, the close-up allows readers to scrutinize the details of the bridge’s construction. Over the course of a few pages, Bayer transforms the bridge from an armature for seeing the display (that establishes a point of view) to being on display itself. He uses the catalogue to highlight the mechanism that facilitated a way of seeing. In the catalogue, the bridge is as important as the rooms it straddled in the exhibition.

Figure 14
Figure 14

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 1. Image of installation on left; Tezett bridge on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

The Tezett bridge does not reappear in the catalogue, but the bird’s-eye view does in Breuer’s perspective drawings, emulating the first and clearest view that visitors would have had of his installation (Fig. 15). The unconventional layout of Breuer’s apartment was inaccessible to visitors except from above. After descending from the bridge to the main floor, they could have only peered into the main three rooms through glass walls and taken a few steps into the unit at the entry, located at the juncture of the couple’s individual rooms, to get a better view of the bathroom. From the bridge, they could have looked directly into the woman’s room but would have had difficulty clearly seeing the other ones farther away (see Fig. 5). Breuer’s drawing gives readers a more inclusive view of the display than visitors would have had, letting them hover over the man’s room at the center as they took in a dizzying view of most of the rest of the unit. Ideal rather than real, suggestive rather than literal, the drawing shows off the organization of the spaces and their restrained character. On the following page spread, a second perspective offers a closer look at a corner of the woman’s room, again from directly above, establishing a context for a photograph of a table on the opposite page. Despite their differences, the perspectives depicting the installations in Gropius’s and Breuer’s sections emphasize the importance of the overview, which shows the room as the primary object on display and focuses the reader’s attention on the architects’ work: the design of the spaces and the organization of the ensemble of objects they contained.

Figure 15
Figure 15

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 3. Introductory text on left; perspective view of apartment on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Along with drawings, Bayer uses other devices to generate perspectives that establish a particular point of view. Some emulate the experience of the exhibition, some interpret it. He crops the photographs of textile samples to look like the panels on which they were installed in his mass production display in Room 4, arranging them in a perspective that emulates the long view of a wall from the corridor ringing his giant vitrine (Fig. 16; see also Fig. 9). The depiction of the wall becomes a general indication of his design strategy for it when he pulls out a panel — one depicting his universal text — to indicate its similar display but separate location in the actual exhibition.

Figure 16
Figure 16

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 4. Inventory list, captions, universal type on left; fabric and type installation center and right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Similarly, the layout and cropping of the photographs of the scattered chairs on the last page of the section for his Room 5, enhanced by shadows, interpret the oblique view that visitors would have had of their installation. Not only does Bayer’s treatment of the images make them appear as if they are standing on the page as they were on the wall, but his design also launches them from its surface, amplifying the encounter with the real thing (Fig. 17; see also Fig. 6).

Figure 17
Figure 17

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 5. Models on left; chair installation on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Bayer’s well-known section-perspective of his installation of architectural photographs in Room 5 claims that the act of viewing from a particular vantage point shapes the display (Fig. 18; see also Fig. 6). The photo installation is one of a piece with the other two installations in the room, which likewise put objects in unusual positions. All but two of the photographs were suspended by cables away from the walls, each hung at different angles; the bottom of the installation merged with a model that, like the other models in the room, was also positioned independently. Opposite, the chairs standing on the walls flanking the main entry to the space presented themselves in a similarly oblique manner. According to Bayer’s catalogue text, each photograph — and one might add, each object on display in the room — was displayed at a different angle to promote optimal viewing and, in turn, a new way of understanding of what was on display. In the drawing, Bayer’s adoption of the Bauhaus ‘eye’ replaces the viewer’s head, and he visualizes its gaze with arrows that connect the eye to individual photographs in the installation. While the perspective shows that the gaze lifts the photographs from the wall so that they can be positioned at the ‘best possible angles for viewing,’ the section shows the construction of the installation.43 Bayer’s color strategy, which assigns gray and black to the perspective and red to the section, emphasizes the difference between the representation of the viewing experience in the exhibition and the diagram of the installation’s construction, only visible in the book. The gaze connects the two. Tracked by red arrows rendered with dotted lines, the gaze is, on the one hand, associated with the construction of the installation; on the other, it is directed at the photographs on display. The happy accident of logistics allows Bayer to use the image, integrating the viewer into the shaping of the exhibition as a conclusion to the catalogue. In a drawing whose remarkable character has been noted by critics and historians alike (and that publications often bring back to life), Bayer presents some of the themes important to the catalogue and his design work more generally. He integrates two- and three-dimensional representation to articulate the point that the engaged and active viewer is essential to his exhibition and catalogue design.

Figure 18
Figure 18

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 5. Inventory list and caption on left; section-perspective of photo installation on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

‘The Mobile Eye’

Bayer’s emphasis on the importance of the point of view echoes El Lissitzky’s approach to both exhibition and graphic design, one defined by the claim that ‘seeing is, of course, also an art.’44 Like Lissitzky, Bayer relies on the axonometric drawing’s aerial view, its ‘[tearing] free of the ground,’ as Malevitch puts it, to capture the realities of seeing, including the ambiguities that were a consequence of the ‘mobile eye’ (Bois 1981: 56). But while Lissitzky turns from the perspective to the axonometric, a progressive move that acknowledged the ‘mobile eye’ rather than the ‘fixed’ one, Bayer, in contrast, keeps using both, embracing different realities of seeing.45 He also uses the axonometric to portray a different set of ambiguities in which, following the artist Josef Albers, ‘space was rendered as object and object as space’ (Bois 1981: 57).46

The axonometric drawings, used to depict Bayer and Moholy-Nagy’s installations in the catalogue, point to the ambiguous status of installations as objects and as space. In Room 4, Bayer’s enormous vitrine occupied most of the gallery (Fig. 19; see also Fig. 9). Physically inaccessible to visitors, the vitrine appeared to be an inflated version of its forebears, an effort to contain the profusion of goods that defined a new era of mass production. In the catalogue, an axonometric drawing depicts the vitrine as a large space while next to it, a plan reveals it as a large object taking up most of the gallery space. Dotted lines connecting specific points on the drawings to photographs of some of the mass-produced objects confront the multiplicity of goods with an assertion of their unique location and therefore character. As Arthur Cohen explains, the vitrine was ‘detailed for objects of different quality and weight’ in order ‘to subtly command the viewer to think about household objects differently, to value them independently, and to see them in a manner that emphasized their modernity while insisting on their individuality’ (Cohen 1984: 294). The vitrine embodies a double ambiguity, highlighting the tension between the individual and the multiple while it oscillates between being object and space.

Figure 19
Figure 19

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 4. Axonometric drawing and plan of large vitrine on left; mass-produced objects on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Another axonometric drawing provides an overview of Moholy-Nagy’s Bauhaus installation, indicating the fixtures — partitions, pedestals and model vitrines — that defined the exhibition space but were, according to the inventory list, also objects on display. It shows how the installation completely reconfigures the space of the room and, at the same time, depicts it as an assembly of many different parts that nonetheless create a continuous viewing experience. In the exhibition, lamps, images of the Bauhaus performances, films, models of theater, life-size figures for the Bauhaus’s ‘Triadic Ballet’, a narrative history of the role of the Bauhaus in industrial production and, finally, a model post office, followed in succession on alternating sides of the visitors’ path (Fig. 20).

Figure 20
Figure 20

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 2. Theater production stills on left; figures from the triadic ballet at center; axonometric drawing of installation on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

On the one hand, the drawings give Moholy-Nagy’s and Bayer’s installations a status equal to Gropius’s and Breuer’s full-scale rooms by making them visible. On the other hand, the axonometric drawings allow the installations to challenge the full-scale rooms by providing a different and more modern way of seeing. Against the dominant views offered by the perspectives of the Gropius and Breuer spaces, the way the axonometric drawing exposes every element and angle of Moholy-Nagy’s installation, for example, suggests the equivalence of all aspects of the display and sets the reader’s eye in motion.

But Bayer also opens up Gropius’s communal spaces to multiple vantage points by surreptitiously introducing a model and an axonometric drawing in the guise of a plan and elevations. On the first double-page spread of Gropius’s section, Bayer ‘engage[s] visitors in physically uncovering information,’ calling on readers to explore the communal spaces with the device of the fold-out page.47 When the page is closed, the outside of the flap shows a model of an apartment house: the intended location of the rooms (Fig. 21). Unfolding the flap reveals a plan of the rooms and a second elevation; by propping up the elevations, the reader creates a model of the space (Fig. 22).48 If the reader flattens the elevations, according to Bayer’s instructions, the elevations become a projection of the plan and an axonometric — which includes the Tezett bridge — emerges from the shadows, indicating height and adding detail to the articulation of the fixtures on the plan and the elevations. Like the left elevation, which extends the model across the center of the book, the folded-out elevation as well as the text on it and on the plan are not oriented to the page.49 Ignoring the orientation of the book and the consistency demanded by architectural drawing convention, the layout of the drawings on the fold-out page favors the reader whose eyes are already moving around inside Gropius’s spaces.

Figure 21
Figure 21

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 1. Introductory text and elevation on left; fold-out page on right. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Figure 22
Figure 22

Section Allemande catalogue, designed by Herbert Bayer: pages for Room 1. Fold-out page with plans and elevations of communal spaces. Reproduced with permission of © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Strange Bedfellows

The ambitions for the exhibition together with the constraints imposed by the circumstances of producing it and the catalogue converge in some unexpected ways. However much it is grounded in cultural ideology, Bayer’s strategy for the design of the catalogue, specifically his focus on the installations, is perfectly compatible with the commercial goals of Reckendorf, the publisher. The catalogue was to be available at the exhibition the day it opened, allowing Reckendorf to maximize sales at the event. This forced a tight production schedule on Bayer and might have compromised the accuracy of the catalogue had he not used the installations as its organizing principle. The installations had to be determined in advance so that their design and drawings were essentially complete by the time Bayer designed the catalogue, ensuring its integrity throughout the duration of the exhibition, despite the risk of error in the details. And Reckendorf only had to publish one edition. In place of subsequent editions of the catalogue, he published a special double issue of Die Form that appeared a few weeks after the opening (see Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). In addition to reviews and essays that elaborate on some of the topics related to the exhibition, the double issue contains images of the installation that confirm the general accuracy of the catalogue. Reckendorf advertised each publication in the other and charged a similar price for both, apparently hoping that readers would view them as inseparable companions.50

Design ideology and commercial considerations are likewise intertwined in the catalogue’s presentation of the exhibition as a cultural event. The absence of advertisements in the catalogue is decisive here. German exhibition catalogues from the second half of the 19th century and later, including Werkbund catalogues, contain advertisements that took advantage of the tourist trade and the general marketing potential gained by attracting a large group of people — professionals and consumers — to the event. The Werkbund catalogue for the 1927 Weissenhof Siedlung, for example, is filled with advertisements. Their absence in the Section Allemande catalogue is unconventional, but it also serves Gropius’s ideological goals for the exhibition, however much he tries to conceal them with other practical arguments. Specifically, Gropius claims that the limited space and the world economic crisis prevented him from producing a commercial event that showed off Germany’s economic accomplishments with a comprehensive representation of German design. The only alternative, according to him, was to present German design as the product of a unified cultural attitude, an approach that was remarkably consistent with the strong ideology that defined his career. The absence of advertisements in the catalogue only reinforces the non-commercial nature of the exhibition and, in turn, Gropius’s approach. Practical constraints may have justified Gropius’s decision, but, as Joachim Driller points out, the formal coherence of the exhibition, one of the hallmarks of its portrait of German design, was an ideological rather than a practical move from the start, the result of the Werkbund’s decision to put Gropius in charge in the first place (Driller 2002: 270–71).

The lack of advertising is also the result of politics. But, despite the apparent commercial limitations, the political situation also opened up opportunities, specifically the sales of an additional publication: the special double issue of die Form. German manufacturers had already hesitated to participate in the Paris exhibition because they doubted that it would generate business for them in France. As a result, Reckendorf feared that they would refuse to advertise in a catalogue with a primarily French audience and that he would have to fill the catalogue of a German event with advertisements from French manufacturers. The political and financial implications of this were unacceptable, despite all the signs of a rapprochement between the two countries. This left Reckendorf no choice but to eliminate advertisements altogether and depend on the direct sales at the exhibition to a largely French audience. For revenue from the advertisements of German manufacturers and sales to German readers, he relied on the special double issue of Die Form (Driller 2002: 267–68).51

But the bilingual catalogue was for German speakers as well as French ones. Aside from its commercial implications — Reckendorf had clearly not given up on catalogue sales to German readers — Bayer’s handling of the two languages has cultural implications and implications for the role of the catalogue. The bilingual format follows Werkbund ideology: Werkbund publications, including Die Form are often multilingual. But Bayer does more than accommodate a bilingual format. His weighting of the French text suggests that the book is a French catalogue with a German translation, asking Germans to understand their own work through the way they presented it to the French. In 1930, this may not have signaled a design rapprochement, but it publicized an effort to have German culture, if not commerce, cross an international border. Bayer’s bilingual design also transforms the small catalogue into an object whose longevity has outstripped that of the exhibition or any memories of the visit. Bayer addresses the various audiences in the catalogue with a bilingual text that relies on color, intensity and repetition of content to accommodate the different points of view held by visitors and readers. He in effect designed two publications: he merged a French catalogue with direct references to the display with an independent bilingual book based on an exchange between its own images and texts. His emphasis on points of view established in the drawings rather than on accurate depictions of the exhibitions’ contents underscores the book’s independence. Bayer’s catalogue not only constructs a close relationship to the exhibition, which was the task of catalogues for similar events, but it also frees the catalogue from the exhibition assuring its independent value as a book, long after the exhibition had closed.


  1. There was little mention of the catalogue in the exhibition reviews. Siegfried Giedion encourages readers ‘not to forget the especially elaborate catalogue, in typography and content, that Herbert Bayer prepared for the exhibition’ (Giedion 1930a). Ehmcke, F H, a designer who adhered to tradition but was allied with the reform movement (although never with the Bauhaus) was critical of the catalogue, writing that it was ‘in some details original, but in general without any culture or taste’ (Harbers 1930: B223). All translations in the article are mine unless noted. [^]
  2. Research on the exhibition catalogues for German art and applied art exhibitions before 1930 is sparse. The general literature, outside of the discussion of Bayer’s catalogue in the context of his work, the Bauhaus or the Werkbund, includes essays accompanying reprints (Amtlicher Katalog, 1998; Börsch-Supan 1971). Other discussions of catalogues can be found in texts on museum collections and exhibitions (Savoy 2006; Gaehtgens and Marchesano 2011). [^]
  3. Although catalogues for permanent collections of art could be large and expensive in the 18th century and early 19th century (Savoy (ed.) 2006; Gaehtgens and Marchesano 2011), the German catalogues produced in the late 19th century for the Berlin academy exhibitions and, later, for independent applied arts exhibitions (including Werkbund exhibitions) were close to the A5 size of the Bayer catalogue. Some, like the one for the Berlin Academy’s centennial exhibition in 1886, could be quite thick due to the size of the exhibition. Earlier Academy catalogues were smaller. The collection catalogues were in or close to an octavo format. The dimensions of the Academy catalogues were determined by my own measurements and are approximate because the pages were trimmed for binding. For the size format, length and the cost of the catalogues of the museums for the aristocratic art collections, see Savoy (2006). [^]
  4. Claims about the catalogues for the Berlin art academy exhibitions and independent applied art exhibitions mentioned in this article come from my investigations of the catalogues unless otherwise noted. According to Klaus Jan Philipp, the Berlin art academy asserted itself by publishing exhibition catalogues before the older academies in Dresden (1764) and Kassel (1778). The Berlin academy of art was reestablished in 1786 (Philipp 1997: 23). See also Börsch-Supan’s introduction to the reprints of the Berlin Academy catalogues (Börsch-Supan 1971: 11). [^]
  5. Siegfried Giedion calls the catalogue a ‘minor typographical masterpiece’ in his monograph on Gropius, for which Bayer designed the book jacket. It appears to be a confirmation of the praise (see note 1) that he bestowed on the catalogue in his review of the exhibition in 1930. [^]
  6. The exhibition was open for two months, from 14 May to 13 July 1930. [^]
  7. Ute Brüning discusses layering and the consequent ambiguity and complexity of the message that was a part of Bayer’s general design strategy: ‘Bayer developed double-layered and ambiguous designs and arguments whose different levels were, in part, separate and, in part, inextricable so that new meaningful contexts always developed out of them’ (Brüning 1982: 133). [^]
  8. Bayer generally challenged the conventions associated with elements of the book. In the 1930 catalogue he challenged the independence of the dust jacket by making it dependent on the cover beneath (Illies 2009). [^]
  9. The designers included Moholy-Nagy, Paul Renner, John Heartfield and Walter Dexel. [^]
  10. The 1930 exhibition was the first time the Germans participated in a design exhibition in Paris since World War I. The joint award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the French and German foreign ministers in 1926 was a watershed moment for design as well as policy. In 1925, the French had excluded the Germans from the celebrated Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs, but, one year after winning the Nobel Prize with the Germans, the Germans invited them to participate in the European Applied Art exhibition held in Leipzig’s Grassi Museum. The French immediately reciprocated, giving the Germans their own section at the annual decorative arts salon in 1930. The French had extended their invitation as early as 1927, but, after lengthy discussions, the Germans asked for a postponement because they were worried that they could not compete with the ‘exclusive elegance of French design’ (Driller 2002: 255–56). See also Jaeggi (2007a: [2]); Jaeggi (2007b: 149); and Krause (2002: 275–76). [^]
  11. During the exhibition, Die Form published two articles discussing the relationship between the French and the Germans (Lotz 1930; Varenne 1930). The French press was preoccupied with the comparison of their work to the Germans (Noell 2002; Krause 2002). The German reviews are mixed in their opinions; a significant group focused on whether or not this was a Bauhaus exhibition. Many of the articles in architecture periodicals focus on the exhibition’s social proposal, while the images celebrate the form (Overy 1991). [^]
  12. ‘[The German Section] presents means and results and allows people to recognize the organic connections with the social and technical world of today.’ (Bayer and Gropius 1930: [1]). [^]
  13. ‘The French work will not leave as decisive an impression as what … Gropius … intentionally strove for,’ Hairon writes, ‘but it will undoubtedly be varied and interesting.’ (Bayer and Gropius 1930: [3]). [^]
  14. In a banquet speech on 18 June 1930, Hairon refers to Gropius’s brilliant way of dealing with the bad location of the exhibition and the difficult shape of the spaces allotted to the German section in the Grand Palais (Krause 2002: 286). [^]
  15. The identification of this as an exhibition of Gropius’s Bauhaus rather than a Werkbund exhibition was perpetuated by Siegfried Giedion and the French press at the time and is a significant point in much of the literature on the exhibition. Even the catalogue was advertised as ‘a publication in the Bauhaus manner’ (Jaeggi 2007: [8]). The identification of the exhibition with Gropius’s Bauhaus is based on the position of Moholy-Nagy’s Bauhaus exhibit as the second room in the sequence after Gropius’s interior; Moholy-Nagy’s mission statement, which explained that the Bauhaus is the foundation of the design sensibility in the exhibition; and on the fact that the exhibition designers, most of the objects on display, and the manufacturers were associated with the Bauhaus during Gropius’s time. The association with Gropius’s Bauhaus is underscored by the fact that Hannes Meyer staged a separate Bauhaus exhibition at the same time, as Barry Bergdoll has pointed out (Bergdoll 2009: 59). It is also discussed in Krause (2002: 284–85); Driller (2002: 257–58, 270–71); Derouet (2002: 298–99); Jaeggi (2007b: 150); and Overy (1994: 337–39). [^]
  16. The commissions accepted by the print workshop included the same range of projects. See Aynsley (2000: 102). [^]
  17. See Brüning’s discussion of Moholy-Nagy’s then unusual practice of laying out each page individually in Brüning (1995: 115). See also Tschichold (1927) and Tschichold (1928). Bayer was a student at the Bauhaus when Moholy-Nagy was a master there and was greatly influenced by him. Bayer was, for example ‘infected by Moholy-Nagy’s enthusiasm for photography as a contemporary means of communication’, a practice which greatly influenced his advertising and journalistic work at the same time (Spencer 2004: 145, 148). [^]
  18. The different styles for the texts in each section suggest this was the case in Bayer’s catalogue. [^]
  19. See, for example, Magdalena Droste on Bayer’s experiments with Akzidenzgrotesk in the Print Workshop after he became master of it in 1925 (Droste 1982: 39). [^]
  20. On the title page of the catalogue for the Dammerstock Siedlung exhibition, designed by Kurt Schwitters, Gropius takes responsibility for the exclusive use of lowercase letters: ‘at the behest of Professor Dr. W. Gropius, Berlin, the artistic director of the Dammerstock Siedlung, the catalogue was set in lowercase letters’ (Ausstellung Karlsruhe 1992: 1). [^]
  21. The introductory text has a black background, and Moholy-Nagy’s text has a red background in the catalogue. [^]
  22. Photographs of the exhibition at the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin indicate that the white type on a black (or dark) background may have been used for other text panels in the exhibition in the rooms designed by Gropius and Breuer. Annemarie Jaeggi makes a similar suggestion (Jaeggi 2007a: [8]). [^]
  23. The suggestion that the texts were images of panels raises the possibility that they might have been reproduced by photographic negative rather than set in the conventional way. This was an essential part of the ‘typofoto’ strategy that Moholy-Nagy developed during the 1920s. It was an approach to printing that would free graphic design from the linear constraints of setting type and allow the designer to ‘model’ type on the page combined with photographs, drawing and handwriting. It lent the page a spatial character. Although Bayer did not exploit the strategy in the catalogue, the depiction of text as image suggests an affinity with Moholy-Nagy’s particular approach (Moholy-Nagy 1927: 36–38). [^]
  24. In retrospect, Bayer referred to the catalogue as a guide, acknowledging its obvious function during the two months that the exhibition was open (Bayer 1967: 32). [^]
  25. Droste makes the point about the ubiquity of tabs in Bayer’s work (Droste 1982: 63). [^]
  26. ‘In other words,’ Gough writes, ‘readers were to become orators’ (Gough 2010: 29). [^]
  27. Quoted from El Lissitzky’s 1925 essay ‘Typographical Facts’. [^]
  28. The ubiquity of Bayer’s drawing of the installation in the scholarship about the exhibition and beyond is indicative of the historic significance of the drawing and, perhaps, the exhibition. [^]
  29. One exception was the two-volume catalogue by Pigage and Michel from 1778, with its elaborate elevations of each gallery wall (Gaehtgens and Marchesano 2011; Koch 2006: 106). [^]
  30. For example, in Vienna (Schryen 2006: 294–95). [^]
  31. See, for example, Kunstgewerbe-Museum zu Berlin (1882: 7–9). [^]
  32. The 1886 Berlin academy catalogue for the jubilee exhibition had five editions of the illustrated catalogue. In general, the catalogues often had two or three editions. [^]
  33. The first salon was held in 1904; the 1930 salon was the 20th. I have found no evidence of a catalogue for the entire Salon as a basis for comparison. The only publication available is a portfolio of the interiors on display (Chappey 1930). [^]
  34. The applied arts section consisted of four complete rooms, two partial rooms and one vitrine (Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung 1901, 1901: 147–48). The section also included an exhibit of the work of the Society ‘Ornament’, likewise directing attention away from individual objects and toward the embellishment of a space. [^]
  35. For example, the catalogue for the 1927 exhibition Die Wohnung in Stuttgart (Amtlicher Katalog, 1998). [^]
  36. The inventory list for Breuer’s room was noticeably short and clearly not comprehensive. Labels on the objects in the exhibition appeared to replace the entries missing from the catalogue. [^]
  37. The sections for Gropius’s, Moholy-Nagy’s and Breuer’s rooms credited the delineators and the photographers of the catalogue images in the captions. [^]
  38. For example, the Weissenhof Siedlung catalogue begins with a quote attributed to Mies van der Rohe, although without mentioning his position. As artistic director, he is mentioned right after the two chairs of the exhibition, the Mayor of Stuttgart and the Chair of the German Werkbund (Amtlicher Katalog, 1998: 5, 13). [^]
  39. The images were integrated in the inventory lists from 1881 until 1892, when they were relocated to the end, just before the advertisements. [^]
  40. Among the examples are catalogues from Vienna (1728–33); Pommersfelden (1728) and Sanssouci in Potsdam (1764). The 1778 Pigage and Michel catalogue for the Düsseldorf painting gallery famously included miniature engravings of the paintings (Gaehtgens and Marchesano: 30; Koch 2006: 105–106). [^]
  41. ‘exhibition [sic] design, already in its early history, induced experiments to extend objects into space, to extend walls into a room, to extend one space into another’ (Bayer 1967: 32). [^]
  42. Annemarie Jaeggi notes that the bridge ‘made the Werkbund exhibition into a main attraction of the Paris show’ (Jaeggi 2007a: [6]). [^]
  43. Bayer’s caption for the image of the installation says that the photos are hung ‘in günstigen Sehwinkeln’ (Bayer and Gropius 1930: [40]). [^]
  44. Quoted from the epigraph of El Lissitzky’s 1924 essay ‘K. und Pangeometrie’ in Dickerman (2003: 158). [^]
  45. For Lissitzky on the fixed and ‘mobile’ eye see Dickerman (2003: 158). [^]
  46. Quoted from Albers, J and Bucher, F, Despite Straight Lines (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), 11. [^]
  47. Bayer similarly engaged visitors in the building trade unions exhibition one year later (1967: 36). [^]
  48. Bayer highlights his instructions to ‘open the page carefully’ and to ‘please fold out the pages for easier reading’ by printing them in red. [^]
  49. In addition, the elevation placed across the binding on the left page corresponds to the opposite side (right), not the adjacent (left) side of the plan. Bayer may have been avoiding a second fold-out page, which would have been difficult to engineer. [^]
  50. See Die Form (1930). The advertisement for the catalogue was under the table of contents for the issue; the advertisement for the journal was inside the back cover of the catalogue. The catalogue cost 75 Pfennig, the same as a single issue of Die Form. [^]
  51. See the entire article for a chronicle of preparations for the 1930 exhibition. [^]

Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.


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