Herbert Bayer attended the Bauhaus from 1921-1928 (first as a student and later as a teacher). During this time the artistic ferment at the school was flourishing, and Bayer was exposed to a developing photography movement lead by his colleague and friend, László Moholy-Nagy. Neues Sehen or New Vision photography was founded on Bauhaus ideals and rejected the notion that photography must follow the rules of painting in order to give it artistic merit. Rather, Neues Sehen artists viewed photography as a second eye for seeing the world, favoring experimentation, avant-garde compositions and unusual subject matter over standard painting conventions. The resulting works were often surreal, graphic and unconventional.
When Bayer began taking his own photographs in 1928, they were steeped in this philosophy. After departing the Bauhaus to become the artistic director of Vogue, Bayer utilized photomontage to juxtapose various images and forms to craft precise, graphic compositions. To Bayer, photography, painting and graphic design were not exclusive; rather they informed one another and could be successfully used together to express his artistic vision.
The present lot, a painting created in 1931 while working in Berlin, takes into consideration this same vision. The subtle modeling of the nose and fingernails exhibits a painterly quality framed by undulating lines and pools of color that overlap and intersect, blurring the dimensional plane. Drawing from the Surrealists, Bayer’s use of disjointed body parts and gesturing creates an image that is referential and familiar, yet does not offer any clear meaning. He employs a graphic and design focused composition based on Bauhaus principles while incorporating components of his photomontages to formulate a surreal, multilayered image. In drawing from these various artistic disciplines, Bayer created a new visual aesthetic, a new vision of his own.