I have been enjoying Fiona MacCarthy’s wonderfully well written and highly readable biography of Walter Gropius, which does everything in its power to humanise this stiff, energetic, highly sexed and physically attractive ex-hussar, with a passion for Alma Mahler and cacti, who, after distinguished service in the first world war, was recruited by the Thuringian government to be director of the Weimar Kunstgewerbeschule and turned it, with the help of the more idealistic Johannes Itten, into the first, more craft-oriented version of the Bauhaus, later transferring it to its more technically and factory oriented formation in Dessau. What emerges is that Gropius was excellent at organisation, brilliant at attracting remarkable people to work under him, known as Pius to Herbert Bayer who had a long affair with his wife, Ise.
He was already in his mid-fifties when he was forced, reluctantly, to emigrate from Berlin to London, where he feared his ability ‘to survive in this inartistic country with unsalted vegetables, bony women and an eternally freezing draught!?’ His time in London, living in Lawn Road, was brief and not entirely happy. His English was poor, hoped for architectural commissions fell through, apart from Impington Village College, the English did not embrace his machine aesthetic, and he and Ise left for Massachusetts in March 1937.