Bauhaus chess set | Josef Hartwig / Joost Schmidt (1924)

The packaging for Hartwig’s chess set, designed by Joost Schmidt
Josef Hartwig’s 1924 chess set
The packaging for Hartwig’s chess set, designed by Joost Schmidt


Sculptor Josef Hartwig designed his chess set while teaching at the Bauhaus in 1924. It embodied the school’s tenets that an object must be practical, 
durable, inexpensive and beautiful. Hartwig’s design reduced the pieces to the most basic components of artistic construction: line, square and circle. 
Though they are incredibly abstract, each well-crafted piece, originally sculpted from pear wood, has been designed to describe its movement on the board. 
The bishop, for example, is a simple X, denoting its diagonal movement. Every aspect of the Bauhaus set was given consideration, even the packaging 
designed by Hartwig’s colleague Joost Schmidt. It truly is, in the Bauhaus tradition, a union of art and craft. The pieces are stripped of any symbolic 
meaning and reduced to pure form. Their designations –bishop, knight, king– become irrelevant. All that matters was movement, which is made tangible 
as the identifying characteristic of each piece. 


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