Herzogenrath Wulf, Farblehre und Weberei : Benita Koch-Otte [Color theory and weaving: Benita Koch-Otte], Werkstatt Lydda, Bethel, [May 13 – June 30, 1972] ; Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin-Charlottenburg [February 20 – April 4, 1976], Bethel, Werkstatt Lydda, 1976→
Koch-Otte Benita, Von der ewigen Sendung des Handwerks in der Notwende [About the Eternal Mission of Crafting Around Necessity], Berlin, Dahem, coll. « Schriften / Werkbruderschaft der Inneren Mission, », 1947
Die Bauhäuslerin Benita Koch-Otte, Bauhaus-Archives, Berlin, June 10 – August 27, 2012
German textile artist et designer.
Benita Koch-Otte (née Benita Otte) studied drawing, sewing, and gymnastics with the intention of becoming a teacher. After passing her exams, she embarked on a fruitful period of school teaching before, at the age of twenty-eight, enrolling at the Weimar Bauhaus in 1920.
She studied in the women’s class, where she soon made friends with Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983). When Paul Klee (1879-1940) joined the school in 1921, she attended his courses and became strongly influenced by him. P. Klee, for his part, became very interested in applying his concepts of form and colour to the field of textile design. The strong impression that he made on B. Koch-Otte is clear from her Wall Hanging of 1924. In its meticulous detail and very delicate balance of colours suggesting the rhythm of music, it is reminiscent of some of P. Klee’s own compositions.
Colour plays an important role in B. Koch-Otte’s work. In 1922, she took courses in textile dyeing, along with Stölzl. The two women introduced their approach to the Bauhaus, and this led to significant changes to the workshop’s textile production. Then, in around 1925, she began to use the specific colour swatch that was to become fundamental to her work, with the aim of creating a balanced mix of shades.
At the first major Bauhaus exhibition of 1923, B. Koch-Otte proved that she could also express herself in different fields, as in her design for the Haus am Horn. At the request of the house’s architect Georg Muche (1895-1987), she designed a plan for the elevation of the house and its isometric projection, which resulted in a genuine work of art. Working together with Ernst Gebhardt, she also designed a functional kitchen, which was later used as a model by other architects of the time. In the textile field, she designed a washable children’s rug, now kept at the Bauhaus museum in Weimar. Based on geometric forms that suggest toys, and reflecting her characteristic sense of harmony, this rug came to be regarded as one of the masterpieces of Bauhaus work of that period.
B. Koch-Otte decided to leave the Bauhaus when it moved to Dessau, because she did not want to be involved in the industrialization of crafts. She was then appointed artistic director of the weaving workshop of the Burg Giebichenstein School of Arts and Crafts in Halle. In 1933, the rise of the Nazi regime forced her to stop teaching, but a year later, in 1934, when she was widowed, she accepted the post of director of the weaving workshop at the Psychiatric Institute of Bethel in Bielefeld.
The Bauhaus Archive in Berlin held a major retrospective of her work in 1976. It was one of the very first solo exhibitions devoted to a woman artist from the Bauhaus school.
As published in Women in Abstraction © 2021 Thames & Hudson Ltd, London
Benita Koch-Otte, Wall hanging, 1922-1924, half tapestry, cotton, wool, 175.5 x 110 cm, Bauhaus Weimar
Benita Koch-Otte, La lune, la lune, comme les vagues, se refroidit comme les vagues creusent dans les crinières sombres de la nuit, 1920-1925, graphite, 28.7 x 22 cm, © Photos Archives Bauhaus, Design Museum, Berlin