Skip to Content

The Things They Cherished

When Walter Gropius and his young family came to America in 1937,they brought their books, some handmade furniture from the Bauhaus workshops in Germany, and little else. But they also brought a peerless eye for good design, as natural as perfect pitch. When they built what daughter Ati called their simple "econo-box" of a home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the next year, they began collecting art and artifacts that, overtime, annealed into an aesthetic. Today the Gropius House is a National Historic Landmark, but it is the ordinary everydayness of their lives that endures in the objects of their affection.

Reclining figure, a Henry Moore sculpture in bronze, was a gift from the artist. A desk in walnut and birch, designed by Walter Gropius and manufactured in the Weimar Bauhaus Carpentry Shop in 1922. A chrome, cane, and pine chair by Marcel Breuer, 1928–30, manufactured by Thonet. The desktop book rack, designed by Egon Riss, is made of laminated birch. On the wall: Herbert Bayer’s 1935 oil on canvas Stable Tools was a gift from the artist and reflects a layering of abstraction and surrealistic effect. Pre-Columbian and Mexican folk art, mementos of a 1946 visit to Mexico. A small wire sculpture by William Wainright, 1960–70. The radiating spokes, snapdragon seed, and central bow tie allude to Gropius as the center of the design universe.
This plywood, birch, and maple magazine rack, called a donkey after its shape of four legs and two panniers, was designed by Riss for Isokon. Walter Gropius eyewear. A double desk of maple and butternut veneer, by Breuer, 1925, was designed for Walter and Ise Gropius and manufactured in Bauhaus Furniture Workshops, Dessau, Germany. The swivel chair and its companion stable chair, manufactured by Knoll, were designed by Eero Saarinen. A bronze prototype of a Dimitri Hadzi sculpture, Thermopylae, located at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston.
Multicolored wool rug on the wall was purchased in Samawa, Iraq, by Louis McMillen and given to the Gropiuses in the 1960s. The night tables are circa 1925, by Breuer. The table lamps were reproduced in 1988 from the original 1924 Bauhaus design by Tecnolumen. Ise Gropius' costume headgear from the 1970 Gropefest. Collaboration, a 1951 painting on plaster by Serge Ivan Chermayeff. A 1936 original design, this Breuer lounge chair is made of plywood, birch, canvas, and stuffing. Ise Gropius added the sheep-skin throws. Legend has it Breuer was inspired by the handlebars of his bicycle when he designed the 1925 side table.
Kitchen canisters and everyday dishes. Dining table and chairs designed by Breuer at the Bauhaus Dessau, 1925. The table, made from laminate, chromed brass, and pinewood, was part of the original furnishings in the Bauhaus director's house. A Gropius family arts and crafts project. Dining-room glass block wall with G7a, a 1925 painting by László Moholy-Nagy.
A Bauhaus toy block set embodies the design philosophy with simple shapes, primary colors, and whimsy. Gropius brought his library of books and records from Germany and added to his collection during his lifetime. The family loved to gather in the living to listen to music or to listen to him read aloud. Womb chair, designed by Eero Saarinen, a gift to Gropius for his 70th birthday. Kitchen tools for everyday, functional use.
A tea set designed by Walter Gropius for Rosenthal. It is still in production today. Ise Gropius often designed and sewed her own clothes, like this red crepe gown with a back detail of fringe. She always hung a red garment on the gray wall of her dressing room as an accent.

Click images above to view slideshow.