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Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer apprenticed under the artist Georg Schmidthammer in Linz. Leaving the workshop to study at the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony, he became interested in Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus manifesto. After Bayer had studied for four years at the Bauhaus under such teachers as Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy, Gropius appointed Bayer director of printing and advertising. Bayer enthusiastically practiced Bauhaus principles for over 60 years. Creating pioneering works in painting, sculpture, environmental works, industrial design, typography, architecture, photography, and applied design, Bayer was one of the few “total artists” of the twentieth century. He produced works that expressed the needs of an industrial age as well as mirroring the advanced tendencies of the avant-garde.



In the spirit of reductive minimalism, he developed a crisp visual style and adopted use of all-lowercase, sans serif typefaces for most Bauhaus publications. He is one of several typographers of the period including Kurt Schwitters and Jan Tschichold who experimented with the creation of a simplified more phonetic-based alphabet. In 1925, he designed a geometric sans-serif typeface called universal, now issued in digital form as Bayer Universal. The design also inspired ITC Bauhaus and Architype Bayer, which bears comparison with the stylistically related typeface Architype Schwitters.


In 1928, Bayer left the Bauhaus to become art director of Vogue magazine’s Berlin office. He remained in Germany far later than most other progressives. In 1936 he designed a brochure for the Deutschland Ausstellung, an exhibition for tourists in Berlin during the 1936 Olympic Games—the brochure celebrated life in the Third Reich, and the authority of Hitler.


In 1937, works of Bayer’s were included in the Nazi propaganda exhibition “Degenerate Art”, upon which he left Germany to settle in New York City in 1938, where he had a long and distinguished career in nearly every aspect of the graphic arts. At this time he was no longer a traditional artist as he did not show art because he was making a good living as a designer. In 1944 Bayer married Joella Syrara Haweis, the daughter of poet Mina Loy.


Industrialist and visionary Walter Paepcke, hired Bayer in 1946 and the Bayers moved to Aspen, Colorado as Paepcke promoted skiing as a popular sport. Bayer’s architectural work in the town included co-designing the Aspen Institute and restoring the Wheeler Opera House, but his production of promotional posters identified skiing with wit, excitement, and glamour. During this time he also created the logo for Ski Colorado, which the group still uses today.


While living in Aspen, Bayer had a chance meeting with the eccentric oilman, outdoorsman and (to those who knew him) visionary ecologist, Robert O. Anderson. When Anderson saw the ultra-modern, Bauhaus-inspired home that Bayer had designed & built in Aspen, he walked up to the front door and introduced himself. It was the beginning of a life-long friendship between the two men and instigated Anderson’s insatiable passion for compulsively collecting contemporary art.


With Anderson’s eventual formation of the Atlantic Richfield Company, and as his personal art collection quickly overflowed out of his New Mexico ranch and other homes, ARCO soon held the unique distinction of possessing the world’s largest corporate Art Collection, under the critical eye and sharp direction of Bayer as Arco’s Design Consultant.


Overseeing acquisitions from within Arco Plaza, the newly built twin 51 story office towers in Los Angeles, Bayer was also responsible for the Arco logo and designing all corporate “branding” related to the company. Prior to the completion of Arco Plaza, Anderson commissioned Bayer to design a monumental sculpture-fountain to be installed between the dark green granite towers. Double Ascension still stands between the twin skyscrapers to this day.


With the purchase of Anaconda Copper, ARCO built an office tower in downtown Denver, and again, Anderson commissioned Bayer to oversee Anaconda’s Art Collection for the new company.




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