Herbert Bayer, 'Hands Act'

Herbert Bayer, 'Hands Act'

Herbert Bayer (1900-85)
'Hands Act'
Museum no. Circ. 650-1969

The Photograph

Photomontage appealed to Bayer because its elemental structure came from the imagination and did not rely on the actual spatial arrangement of objects. In this image Bayer has arranged photographs of hands (two wearing plastic gloves) onto a map and re-photographed it. The joins of the different photographs are barely visible. The image has a surreal quality; the meaning of the arrangement of forms is not clear. Bayer, however, was from the Bauhaus movement and although the photomontage may be the closest Bauhaus came to Surrealist thinking, it is perhaps more a personal gesture of wit and irony than a direct reference to Surrealism.

The Photographer

Herbert Bayer was one of the leading figures in the Bauhaus movement in Germany and was throughout his career a highly influential graphic designer and artist.

Bayer began to experiment with photography while he was a master at the Bauhaus school in Dessau. He produced some straight photographs, highlighting the abstract structures and sculptural qualities of things, but was never interested in the technical side of photography and so his exploration of straight photography was limited.

He left the Bauhaus in 1928 and established himself as a leading designer. It was at this stage that he took an interest in photomontage. He used the technique for his own artistic work but also in advertising work, where he was partly responsible for establishing photomontage as a key commercial visual style in the 1930s.

His main body of photographic work was produced in the late 1920s and the 1930s, after which he continued to develop other areas of visual design.


This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13a.