Johannes Itten

Johannes Itten ( born November 11, 1888 in Süderen -Linden, Switzerland, † March 25, 1967 in Zurich ) was a Swiss painter, art theorist and art educator. Itten one of the Zurich School of concrete.

Life and work

Itten was the son of a teacher and mountain farmers and attended from 1904 to 1908 the teacher training college in Bern. After a brief spell as a teacher in a Bernese village he studied from 1909 to 1910 at the Art Academy in Geneva. From an academic teaching, he was bitterly disappointed. He went back to Bern to train them in the years 1910 to 1912 as a secondary school teacher in physics, mathematics and chemistry. In the winter semester 1912/1913 he studied again at the Art Academy in Geneva. Itten there took a course with Eugène Gilliard (1861-1921), where he came in contact with the geometric form elements and its contrasts.

From 1913 to 1916, the artist lived in Stuttgart. He became a pupil of Adolf Hölzel at the Stuttgart Academy. He also came with Ida Kerkovius, Oskar Schlemmer, Willi Baumeister, Hermann Stenner, who belonged to the Hölzel circle in contact. For Itten Adolf Hölzel was groundbreaking, he took over but its general contrast theory and consequently also its color contrast theory, and also the practice of image analysis, experimenting with abstract collages ( material assemblies), the gymnastic exercises and the so-called automatic drawing.

During the First World War Itten moved to Vienna, where he founded his own art school to secure a livelihood. About his artistic work and his educational work he was presenting:

" Geometric and rhythmic forms, problems of proportions and the expressive image composition were worked through. New tasks were the textures and the elaboration of the subjective forms. In addition to the theory of polar contrasts the exercises took her to relaxation and concentration of pupils astounding success. The creative automatism was recognized by me as one of the most important factors of artistic creation. I myself worked on geometric- abstract paintings that were based on careful image constructions "

In the city on the Danube, the artist Walter Gropius came to know that as one of the first teachers appointed him in 1919 at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Itten was at the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1923 worked as artistic director ( Formmeister several workshops) and coined it through the built together with Gertrud Grunow preliminary course. Temporarily he was also a lecturer for wall and glass painting.

After disagreements with Walter Gropius Itten resigned in 1923 out of the Bauhaus to be from 1923 to 1926 to join in Herrliberg at Zurich Mazdaznan the Temple community. There he founded the Ontos - art school for the study of nature, composition, form and color theory and graphic and the Ontos workshops for hand-weaving, carpet weaving and tapestries Smyrna.

1926-1934 led Itten own school in Berlin, from 1932 to 1938, the Higher College of Textile fabrics Art in Krefeld. He also worked as a guest lecturer at the School of Applied Arts Szczecin and was together with its director Gregory Rosenbauer initiator of the existing 1930 to 1933 artist group The New Pomerania. After the closure of two out of Itten schools by the Nazis, he became in 1938 director of the Zurich School of Design, Zurich University of the Arts today. From 1943 he headed the Textile College and from 1952 to 1956, the Museum Rietberg. Itten's teaching methods are influenced by his own experiences as a gymnast, while he applied the principles of training theory on learning and skills, since he was convinced of the educational function of sport ..

Johannes Itten and his wife Anneliese have a daughter who Prähistorikerin Marion Lichardus - Itten. She is president of Johannes Itten - Foundation.

Itten's color theory

Through his teaching and work with students at the Bauhaus Johannes Itten was the founder of the color theory of types. Itten operation alongside his teaching career as a painter at the Bauhaus Weimar also studies on the effect of colors. It interested him as a painter, the interaction of form and color. Both the assignment of colors to shapes and the reverse behavior brought him in collaboration with his students advanced knowledge that went into his theory.

Johannes Itten 's color theory has a ( major work: art of color) set up. Originally developed by his teacher Adolf Hölzel and later elaborated by Itten theory of the "Seven Color Contrasts" is taught at various crafts and art schools. An important preliminary work for art of color (1961 ) was the pre-course " analysis the old masters ". It was published together with the " color ball in 12 colors and 7 light levels" in the publication " Utopia " in 1921 in Weimar.


Itten was best-known follower of Mazdaznan, that is justified by Otoman Czar Adusht Ha'nish mixing lesson from Zoroastrian, Christian and Hindu elements. So Itten designed as his contribution to the first Bauhaus portfolio, which also includes Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Lothar Schreyer, August Macke, Franz Marc, Heinrich Campendonck, George Grosz, Otto DC man and Wassily Kandinsky contributed a quote

"House of the White Man: Greetings and healing the hearts which are illuminated by the light of love and misled neither by heaven, nor by hopes of a fear of hell "

2011 in Munich, a planned street was named after him in 2012 but this was remade after protests due to the proximity of the Mazdaznan to Nazism reversed.


  • Johannes Itten: Analysis of old masters. In: Bruno Maria Adler ( ed.): Utopia. Documents of reality. Utopia, Weimar 1921.
  • Johannes Itten: Art of Color, Otto Maier. Ravensburg 1961. ( Reprints )
  • Johannes Itten: My preliminary course at the Bauhaus, design and form of teaching. Otto Maier, Ravensburg 1963 ( reprints )
  • Johannes Itten: Elements of Fine Art. Study edition of the diary. E. A. Seemann, Leipzig 2002, ISBN 3-363-00777-9.
  • Johannes Itten: The shop and the interior design at the headquarters of Erich Hamann Chocolate Factory Berlin Wimersdorf were designed by the Bauhaus artist Johannes Itten 1928.