The Power of Color and Form at Bauhaus

Why is the triangle yellow and the circle blue?

By Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Untitled (Colour circle, six-part. Exercise from Wassily Kandinsky's theory of colours class) (1929) by Reinhold RossigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

To find answers to world-changing questions, schools like to form working groups. And the Bauhaus was no exception. The question the working group formed by masters and students in the early years set out to explore was …

… which of the three colours yellow, red and blue best matches the circle, the triangle and the square?

After hours and hours of discussions the answer they came up with was …

Colour seen in the angle, geometric plane and line (1929) by Reinhold RossigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

The colour for the triangle is yellow. Because yellow is combative and aggressive and stands for the mind and thought.

The colour for the square is red. Because red is static, heavy, sluggish.

The colour for the circle is blue. Because blue is relaxing and at the same time in motion, so it stands for the “mind animated within itself”.

But as if that wasn’t enough, the temperament of each colour was applied to human character as well, and so people’s favourite colours could be explained.

Something like – do you feel triangle or are you circle already?

Nude study (1925-06) by Margaretha (Grete) ReichardtBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Bauhaus student Margaretha Reichardt tended to be more of a triangle character, even if a lot of people called her “the Summer Queen” because of the reddish sheen in her hair.

But this student of weaving, who invented the iron yarn fabric for the legendary Wassily Loom, liked to be awkward.

You need the Bauhaus (1928) by Margaretha (Grete) ReichardtBauhaus Dessau Foundation

She complained about the stressful piecework regime in the weaving workshop …

… and even spun intrigues against weaving master Gunta Stölzl.

House Emmer, Master House estate (before 2011) by Silvia Höll (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

In 1933 she opened the Grete Reichardt hand weaving shop in Erfurt, and five years later a former fellow student built her a house – not with a flat roof and lots of glass the way it was taught at the Bauhaus, but according to Reichardt’s very own wishes. It turned out to be a boring, conventional house with a pointed roof (there it is again, that triangle!) ...

… and looked a bit like this one here that after the war crowned the foundations of the bombed-out Gropius master’s house in Dessau.

Not just Reichardt’s house concealed any reference to the Bauhaus. For years its resident did too.

Untitled (Carpet for a children's room) (1929 (design), ca. 1977) by Margaretha (Grete) ReichardtBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Her attitude to the avant-garde school in Dessau is probably best expressed in this carpet, which she wove in 1977 from designs made in 1929.

And what do we see here?

The triangle is blue, the circle is yellow ...

Read more about Bauhaus Textiles

Credits: Story

Text / Concept / Realisation: Cornelia Jeske

Editing: Astrid Alexander, Cornelia Jeske

Translation: Catherine Hales, Stephan Schmidt

© Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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