Between 1925 and early 1928, Schlemmer had concentrated almost entirely on work for the theatre, and on his extensive duties as the master in charge of the theatre department at the Bauhaus, but in February 1928, he wrote in his diary that 'ideas for pictures [… (were)… ] finally flowing' (Oskar Schlemmer, diary entry, 4 February 1928, in Tut Schlemmer, ed., The Diaries and Letters of Oskar Schlemmer, Evanston, Illinois, 1972, p. 224). Deciding to therefore focus on one principal theme at a time, he was resolved to master his ethos of painting in which simplified forms of the human body are conjoined into a meditative and harmonious union. The present work conjures a sense of existential mystery between the figures and exudes a strange empty space surrounding them which is both light and dark. The artist’s experience of stage design, ballet and choreography led him to discover that the 'human figure, plucked out of the mass and placed in the separate realm of the stage (or the empty plane of the picture) is surrounded by an aura of magic and thus becomes a space-bewitched being' (Oskar Schlemmer, ‘Formale Elemente der Bühne’, p. 14. Manuscript of a lecture given on 4th March 1933, Oskar Schlemmer Archiv, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart). The prosaic forms and the spatial energy suggest a sense of theatrical performance, vibrating a stirring romantic undertone.
The pervasive mixture of objectivity and mysticism that subtly suffuses much of Schlemmer’s work is particularly enhanced in Hellgraue Gruppe (light grey group) by the direct confrontation between sharp, delineation of form and the hazy diffusion of enigmatic white light and dark shadow, rendered by his pencil. It is a work laced with sacrality in a manner similar to that employed by Schlemmer’s Bauhaus colleague Lyonel Feininger whose crystallised Gothic cathedrals from this period visually resonate with Schlemmer’s own expression of space and the human form.
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