Gropius House

Birthday Card: Alfred and Gertrud Arndt, 1953

This birthday card was made by German architect Alfred Arndt and his partner Gertrud Arndt, a photographer and designer; both of whom were associated with Bauhaus in Germany. Piecing together brightly colored papers, cut out photos of faces, stamps, and pencil drawing, this collage card is representative of mid-20th century art and color schemes.

At the top center, Walter’s figure features an inscription: “BAUHAUS / 1953 / HÄUPTLING.” From German, häuptling, can be translated as “chief” or “chieftain,” usually in direct reference to a Native American leader. The Arndts trained at Bauhaus in the 1920s under Gropius during his tenure as director. In 1930, two years after Gropius left the school, Alfred was appointed Master of the Building and Interior Design at Bauhaus art school. The Arndts likely saw Walter as a mentor as well as friend, hence their depiction of Walter as “chief.” The insensitive and harmful portrayal of Walter as an Indigenous leader is line with mid-20th century resurgence of racialized caricatures of Indigenous figures in popular culture, especially after the success of the radio turned television show The Lone Ranger (1933-1957) and Disney’s Peter Pan (1953).