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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 349

From Bauhaus to Our House is a nonfiction book by American journalist and essayist Tom Wolfe. The book is an example of Wolfe's attempt at art criticism, particularly discourses on modern architecture. Tom Wolfe gained prominence as one of the pioneers of New Journalism, a sub-genre of journalism and nonfiction that combines factual reportage with the narrative style of fiction.

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The book was initially written as a response to the art world—i.e. art critics, collectors, artists, curators, et al.—after it derided Wolfe's first attempt at art criticism with the book The Painted World. Motivated by the hostile reaction he received, Wolfe decided to focus on architecture, which was becoming a serious art genre during the 20th century. Before, architecture was perceived as its own field that combined engineering with design, but was not studied as a pure art form like painting or sculpture. When architecture finally became a booming field in the art circle, two styles became dominant: International Style and Modern Architecture.

Wolfe criticized these two styles that became the mainstream. He opined that the buildings lacked ornate designs on their exteriors and was not appreciated by the masses who had to view such large skyscrapers everyday as part of the cityscape. He praised architects such as Louis Sullivan, who designed buildings that were outside of the International Style and Modern aesthetics. Wolfe also implied that the new architectural forms were simply gigantic trophies of the wealthy elite; a permanent monument to self-glorification polluting the American landscape.

Another criticism Wolfe articulated in the book was the architecture mainstreams obsessive adherence to various theories, such as political philosophies of Marx, that were out of place in America. For instance, Wolfe uses the example of a school building modeled after the housing arrangement of proletariat workers in Eastern Europe. Wolfe criticized the elitist institutions that dictated the aesthetics and practice of modern architecture. He opined that the general public did not like the style of the modern buildings because the elite architects who control the direction of the field are busy competing to be the most avant-garde

Form and Content

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Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 675

On Sunday, April 28, 1974, as the result of an article in The New York Times about a Yale University art exhibition, Tom Wolfe came to an interpretation of the nature of twentieth century art and architecture that would eventually characterize two of his books, The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House. “Then and there,” Wolfe wrote in The Painted Word, “I experienced a flash known as the AHA! phenomenon, and the buried life of contemporary art was revealed to me for the first time. The fogs lifted! The clouds passed!” The thesis that Wolfe adapted in The Painted Word is that twentieth century art “has become completely literary.” Artists have conformed to the theories of art critics. Thus, painting is a reflection of the current artistic theory or philosophy, instead of philosophy or theory arising from and explaining the nature of art. In the world of art, essence precedes and determines existence and not the reverse. In From Bauhaus to Our House, Wolfe extended this view of art to the world of architecture. Thus, twentieth century architecture is a reflection of a philosophy or theory: The philosophy that explains architecture, according to Wolfe, is Marxism, and that central vision was translated into the major architectural forms of the century.

The format or structure, content, and language of Wolfe’s books are designed to support his thesis. Without pedantry, Wolfe takes his readers on a lighthearted, charming romp...

(The entire section contains 1086 words.)

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