Bauhaus first broke up in 1983. Peter Murphy began a solo career while the other members continued as Tones on Tail and, later, Love and Rockets. Both enjoyed greater commercial success in the United States than Bauhaus had, but disappeared from the charts in their homeland. The band reunited for a 1998 tour and on a more permanent basis in 2005. The group announced plans to disband again following the release of their final album, Go Away White, in 2008.
Daniel Ash, his friend David J. Haskins, and Haskins's younger brother Kevin Haskins had played together in various bands since childhood, often not lasting more than one gig. One of the longer-lived of these was a band called The Craze, which performed a few times around Northampton. However, the Craze still split up fairly quickly, and Ash once again tried to convince his old school friend Peter Murphy to join him, simply because Ash thought he had the right look for a band. Murphy, who was working in a printing factory, decided to give it a try, despite never having written any lyrics or music. During their first rehearsal, he co-wrote the song "In the Flat Field." Ash's old bandmate Kevin Haskins joined as the drummer. Ash made a point of not inviting David J, the driving force in their previous bands, because he wanted a band he could control. After only a few weeks though, Ash reconsidered and invited Haskins to replace original bassist Chris Barber. Haskins had already agreed to tour American airbases with another band, but decided that joining his friends' group was "the right thing to do." With their lineup complete, the unnamed band played their first gig at the Cromwell pub in Wellingborough on New Year's Eve 1978.
The band chose the name Bauhaus 1919, a reference to the German Bauhaus art movement of the 1920s, because of its "stylistic implications and associations", according to David J. Bauhaus associate Graham Bentley said that the group was unlike any Northampton band of the time, most of which played predominantly cover songs. Bentley videotaped a performance by the group, which was sent to several record labels in the hope of obtaining a contract. This approach was hindered partly because many record companies at the time did not have home video equipment or Bentley had to provide it himself, so the group decided to record a demo.
Together for only six weeks, Bauhaus entered the studio for the first time at Beck Studios in Wellingborough to record a demo. The band recorded five songs; one of the tracks from the session, "Bela Lugosi's Dead", running more than nine minutes, was released as the group's debut single in August 1979 on Small Wonder Records as Bauhaus (the 1919 abandoned). The single received a positive review in Sounds and stayed on the British independent charts for two years. The song received crucial airplay on BBC Radio 1 and DJ John Peel's evening show, and Bauhaus was subsequently asked to record a session for Peel's show, which was broadcast on January 3, 1980.
The band released three more singles, "Dark Entries", "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" and "Telegram Sam"—originally written by glam rock pioneers T.Rex—before the debut of their first album In the Flat Field in 1980 on 4AD. Despite negative reviews, In the Flat Field topped the indie charts and made headway onto the British pop charts, peaking for one week at number seventy-two.
Bauhaus' growing success outstripped 4AD's resources, so the band moved to 4AD's parent label Beggars Banquet Records. Bauhaus released "Kick in the Eye" as its debut release on the label. The single reached number 59 on the charts. the following single "The Passion of Lovers" peaked at number 56. Bauhaus released its second album, Mask, in October 1981. The band employed more keyboards and a variety of other instruments to add to the diversity of the record. In an unconventional move, the group shot a video for the album's title track as a promotional tool for the band as a whole and not any specific song from the record.
Bauhaus followed with the single "Spirit", produced by Hugh Jones and intended to break into the Top 30. However, "Spirit" only reached number 42. The band was displeased with the single and re-recorded it for their third album The Sky's Gone Out, in 1982. In the same year Bauhaus scored their biggest hit with a cover of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", which was recorded during a BBC session. The song reached number fifteen on the British charts and earned the band an appearance on the television show Top Of The Pops. Thanks to the success of the single, the album also became the band's biggest hit, peaking at number four. That same year Bauhaus made an appearance in the horror film The Hunger, where they performed "Bela Lugosi's Dead" during the opening credits. The final cut of the scene focused on Murphy; this, coupled with the singer's modelling work in a popular ad campaign for Maxell, caused resentment among the rest of the group.
Prior to the recording of their fourth album Burning from the Inside (1983) Peter Murphy was stricken with pneumonia, which prevented him from contributing much to the album. Daniel Ash and David J took the reins and became the driving forces behind the record, and even did lead vocals on a few tracks. The album's lead single, "She's in Parties", reached number 26 on the charts and earned Bauhaus their third and final Top of the Pops appearance. Bauhaus then embarked on an international promotional tour for the album, with dates in Europe and the Far East. David J recalled that the night before they were supposed to perform two shows at Hammersmith Palais in London the group decided to disband. The band played their farewell show on 5 July 1983 at the Hammersmith Palais; dedicated fans had been warned by the band's crew not to miss the show without telling them it was the last. After a long encore consisting of some of their early songs, David J left the stage with the words "rest in peace". Burning from the Inside was released a week later. The album received largely positive reviews and reached number 13 on the charts. Bauhaus released the single "Sanity Assassin" in limited quantities as a farewell gift for those who joined the group's fanclub.
After Bauhaus disbanded, the members of the band did various solo work. Peter Murphy worked briefly with bassist Mick Karn of Japan in the band Dali's Car before going solo with such albums as Deep and Love Hysteria. Daniel Ash had already started Tones on Tail with Bauhaus roadie Glen Campling as a side-project in 1981; after Bauhaus broke up Kevin Haskins joined the group, which released an album and several EPs before breaking up following a 1984 American tour.
David J has released multiple solo albums and has collaborated with several other musicians such as The Jazz Butcher, as well as with comics writer/spoken-word artist Alan Moore in the band The Sinister Ducks, on the EP V for Vendetta (based on Moore's comic), and on Moore's performance piece The Birth Caul, over the years.
During a discussion about the state of their projects at the time, Ash and David J began talking about reforming Bauhaus. All four band members arranged a rehearsal, but Murphy failed to show up the day it was scheduled. The other three band members rehearsed regardless, and were inspired by the chemistry they had as a trio. As a result, Ash and the Haskins brothers formed Love and Rockets in 1985. Love and Rockets scored a US hit four years later with "So Alive". The band broke up after seven albums in 1999. Both Daniel Ash and David J released solo albums during the Love and Rockets years; Peter Murphy contributed backing vocals to David J's 1992 single "Candy on the Cross."
Bauhaus reunited for the "Resurrection Tour" in 1998, which featured a new song, "The Dog's a Vapour", which was also included in the soundtrack for the film Heavy Metal 2000. A live album recorded during the tour, Gotham, was released the following year and included a studio recording of a Dead Can Dance cover, "Severance".
Bauhaus reunited again in 2005, playing that year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. At the opening of their set, Peter Murphy was lowered to the stage upside-down singing "Bela Lugosi's Dead". Following Peter Murphy's 2005 tour, Bauhaus embarked on a full tour beginning in North America and Mexico in the Autumn of 2005 and ending in Europe in February 2006. The band also mentioned that they hoped to record new music following the tour. In May 2006 the band toured with Nine Inch Nails on the summer leg of their tour.
Bauhaus released their first new studio album since 1983, Go Away White, in 2008. This marked the end of the band and there was no supporting tour. Drummer Kevin Haskins said in an interview that they "were getting along really well, but there was an incident that occurred." As a result, "some of us just felt that we didn't want to carry on as a working unit". In an interview with SuicideGirls, bassist David J said about the breakup: "You have a test tube, and you pour in one chemical, and you pour in another chemical, and something happens. It starts to bubble. Pour in another chemical, and it starts to bubble a bit more. You pour in a fourth chemical, and it bubbles really violently, and then explodes. That's my answer". Peter Murphy claimed in another interview that " he was most satisfied with the bonding on an emotional level. It was good to be working together and to put the past behind us and it was very positive. The result was coming out really fast, so it was exciting and it was very enjoyable," but in the end " that rocky character worked and I think it was a bit right to finish it, really."
Murphy also stated in his MySpace blog in January that "there's a lot more to it than this 'incident' that I've heard bandied about. In any group's business there are constant incidents, so what? Committing to being in a band takes tolerance, love, and a massive commitment. I've walked on that stage at times when I could emotionally barely manage to and give it all just the same. If I'd let some disagreement or bad word distract me from that goal, then I'd need to question my integrity. Anton Corbijn once related to me how Bono of U2 talked about one of the reasons that U2 had survived was that they're unlike many English bands; there was a kinship and priority given to each other as family. I personally sympathize with that. 'There is no love where there is no Love.'"