History of Art and Film Seminar Series: Irena Blühová’s ‘A School for Becoming Human’

Posted by jcm22 at Oct 18, 2018 04:50 PM |
5 December 2018 - Dr Julia Secklehner examines the photographs of Irena Blühová. An experienced photojournalist and active Communist, Blühová attended the Bauhaus in 1931. Secklehner’s new approach consists in re-uniting the oft-seperated documentary and modernist tendencies in her work.
History of Art and Film Seminar Series: Irena Blühová’s ‘A School for Becoming Human’

Dr Julia Secklehner (Birmingham)

Date: 5 December 2018
Time: 4pm - 6pm
Location: Ken Edwards Fifth Floor SR 527

Contact: Dr Samuel Raybone


Speaker: Dr Julia Secklehner (Birmingham)

The photographer Irena Blühová arrived at the Bauhaus Dessau in the spring term of 1931. An experienced photojournalist and active member of the Communist Party in her native Czechoslovakia, Blühová studied at the Typography and Advertising Workshop for just over a year, before being called home by the Communist Party. In the limited scholarly literature on her, Blühová’s time at the Bauhaus has dominantly been posed as a period of study where she focused on form, steering away from political action. Her experience as a documentarian of social ills, market fairs and local traditions in the poorest rural regions of Czechoslovakia, produced both before and after her Bauhaus studies, have thus largely been set apart from Blühová’s work at the school, as if to geographically divide the artist’s aesthetic and social concerns. The aim of my paper is to challenge this apparent division. Focusing on Blühová’s political activities at the Bauhaus on the one hand, and her adaptation of ‘Bauhaus photography’ to the local context upon her return to Czechoslovakia on the other, my paper reconciles Blühová’s photographic work before, during, and after her Bauhaus studies. Concurrently, I explore facets of Bauhaus photography as a politicised artform, its connections to Arbeiterfotografie, and the contributions that documentarians such as Blühová made to the school’s photographic repertoire. I will mediate the role of the Bauhaus in Blühová’s photography and consider her artistic production in Dessau as indicative of a politicised photography rooted at the school, which used a photographic ‘Bauhaus modernism’ within a socialist political framework.


Dr Julia Secklehner is an art historian specialising in Central European art in the first half of the 20th century. A research fellow at the University of Birmingham, she works on the ERC-funded project ‘Continuity or Rupture? Art and Architecture in Central Europe, 1918-1939’ (CRAACE), focusing on the relationship between the avant-garde and ‘vernacular’ modernisms in interwar Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Secklehner studied Art History and Czech at the University of Glasgow and has earned a PhD in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her most recent publication is ‘Bolshevik Jews, Aryan Vienna? Popular Antisemitism in Der Kikeriki, 1918-1933’, The Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, August 2018.

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