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Birgit Jooss

Arnold Bode’s contacts in Berlin in the early 1930s

At the beginning of 1930, Arnold Bode moved to Berlin to accept a teaching position at the Städtisches Werklehrer-Seminar. In the bubbling metropolis, he cultivated a variety of contacts with artists, including from the Bauhaus. This was the city he wanted to stay in. He made friends there, succeeded as an artist, exhibited and sold works. But in 1933, the up-and-coming career of the artist came to an abrupt end.

He was dismissed and returned with his young family to Kassel, where he received support from his brothers. His dreams were shattered, but the contacts he made in Berlin helped him to realize the first documenta in 1955.

At the beginning of 1930, Arnold Bode left Kassel together with his wife Marlou to accept a teaching position in Berlin as head of the basic course at the Städtisches Werklehrer-Seminar. His former professor for art education at the Kassel Art Academy, Hans Wilhelm Michel, had appointed him first as a lecturer and shortly afterwards as deputy director#k.


The young couple moved to a new residential estate called “Onkel Toms Hütte (Uncle Tom’s Cabin)” in Berlin-Zehlendorf, a complex that was characterized by the clarity and simplicity of New Building design.

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#k
The Kroll Opera in Berlin

Berlin was a bubbling melting pot that attracted many artists. Bode was enthusiastic about metropolitan life and this was the city he wanted to stay. He made new friends, succeeded as an artist, exhibited and sold works. His autobiographical notes reveal his passion:

»
Berlin is going to be our city ... painted much—exhibited—new friends, the circle around Hofer, Nay, and Mettel—and still many names that I have forgotten today. Successes, purchases by museums—also from the Kronprinzenpalais—some prizes.
«
Source

Arnold Bode: “Biographische Daten und autobiographische Notizen,” quoted from Heiner Georgsdorf (ed.): Arnold Bode. Schriften und Gespräche, Berlin 2007, p. 302

He mentioned exhibitions at influential galleries as Alfred Flechtheim and Paul Cassirer: In 1932/33 Bode was represented in their exhibition "Living German Art" among Lyonel Feininger, Gerhard Marcks, and many more. He was also able to exhibit at Karl Buchholz's and even sell a painting to the Nationalgalerie Berlin. Without a doubt, he, was well networked, and on his way to a brilliant career.

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Exhibition Catalogue of the Berlin Secession with the painting "Landschaft bei Urmatt" by Arnold Bode on the cover, 1934

Contacts from Kassel perhaps benefited him. For his former highly esteemed teacher Ewald Dülberg and his fellow student and friend Teo Otto were also now based in Berlin. Under the direction of Otto Klemperer, they worked on the reformation of the Berlin “Krolloper (Kroll Opera)”Berlin. Numerous leading artists were involved in this project, including the Bauhaus members László Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, who made the Krolloper one of the most progressive music stages in Germany.


Ernst Schuh also belonged to Bode's circle of friends at the time. Later he would work with him in Kassel on rebuilding the Kassel Werkakademie5/9. Looking back, Bode's wife Marlou remembered their time in Berlin, which brought them contacts not only in visual artist circles, but also in the literature and theater scene:

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»
We were young, had only just married, and had an insanely large number of friends, many Jews among them, artists and writers, the whole circle around Brecht, Teo Otto ... People met at the Romanisches Café and talked about politics, art, theater, and literature as if intoxicated.
«
Source

Marlou Bode im Gespräch mit Lothar Orzechowski, in Lothar Orzechowski (ed.): Arnold Bode – Essays, Kassel 1986, pp. 18-19

There must have been points of contact with Bauhaus artists repeatedly back then. In 1932, Bode became a member of the Künstlerbund and the Berliner Secession, where he was able to further expand his contacts. Among them were the former Bauhaus masters Lyonel Feininger, Werner Gilles, and Gerhard Marcks.

A further link to the Bauhaus opened up with the 1931 building exhibition in Berlin boasting “avant-garde models of new building and living.” Bode was particularly impressed by the department headed by Mies van der Rohe, "The Apartment of Our Times." His family recalled: "Above all Mies van der Rohe's type house [...] inspired him later for documenta urbana.

Arnold Bode pursued the documenta urbana project intensively in Kassel in the postwar period. He wanted to realize his vision of a documenta translated into life. Like many of the pioneers at the Bauhaus, he was interested, among other things, in the holistic design of interiors and exteriors, of living space and urban space.

But in 1933 the burgeoning career of the artist came to a momentous end. On May 1, Bode was dismissed without notice for political unreliability and modern teaching methods, his works partly destroyed. His attempts to gain a foothold as a lecturer in Halle/Saale and Düsseldorf failed. He and his young family had to return to Kassel, where he received support from his family. The following years were full of privations: the removal of his paintings from Kassel's museums, his mostly anonymous collaboration with his brothers as interior designers and furniture designers #h, his conscription and service in the Wehrmacht, where he designed soldier's homes, and his American captivity and return to his hometown, which had been severely destroyed.


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