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Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens

Paper Masters custom writes research on artists such as Peter Behrens. Architecture, as numerous historians have pointed out, is the most expensive of the arts. Without generous patrons, architectural visions remain two-dimensional fantasies. Indeed, with the exception of architecture endowed by wealthy and often eccentric individuals, architecture is usually the product of a variety of collective forces, a complex and often confusing combination of social, economic, cultural, as well as aesthetic needs and desires. Peter Behrens was one such artist that thrived on experimental architecture and built a bridge between the past and the present at the turn of the century. Due to the enlightened governmental and industrial patronage in Germany, Behrens flourished and was recognized the world over as a great industrial architect.

  • Peter Behrens was born in Hamburg in 1869.
  • Behrens studied painting from 1886 to 1889 at the Karlsruhe School of Art.
  • Behrens studied 1889 in Düsseldorf under Ferdinand Brütt.
  • 1890 he visited the Netherlands before settling in Munich.
  • Behrens was a member of the Munich Secession and mixed with the artistic radicals of his day.

In 1897, after a visit to Italy in 1896, he was one of the founders of the Munich Vereinigte Werkstätten (United Workshops). His interest in crafts led him to seek out the problems of industrial design for machine production.

Behrens formed a close friendship with Otto Eckmann and designed for "Pan". Behrens designed covers for Otto Julius Bierbaum's advanced literary magazine, Die Insel, his Der Brunte Vogel and for his Pan im Busch. His early career as a painter and graphic artist reveals him as an exponent of Jugendstil artwork.

The popularity around the world at the end of the nineteenth century of such design movements as Art Nouveau and the Jugendstil movements which employed the curving lines of plants and other natural forms, were part of a reaction against the Industrial Revolution, another pendulum swing. Antonio Gaudi is regarded as having conceived of the structure of architecture in an extremely rational manner, but his architecture shares much with the Art Nouveau and Jugendstil movements and was in its own way a reaction against, or a pendulum swing back from, the Industrial Revolution as well. At the start of the twentieth century, however, architects such as Peter Behrens advocated rationalism, and the pendulum swung back to that extreme with the Bauhaus and Modern Architecture movements.

Behrens was the beginning of a trend to hire industrial artists and thus give clout to the field. On the political front, the rise of industrialization was of eminent importance to the people and the government in Europe. The image that was portrayed of industrialization was key to its success in the eyes of the people. Industrial artists help propel the idea that industrialization was important in advancing living standards, society, and glorifying a nation. "By no means did Behrens try to solve industrial problems by excluding the continuity of the architectural tradition, but he was concerned about the integration of past and present, just as he had worked earlier on the conversion of the coal symbol to the diamond symbol, which showed his life as being integrated with art....".

Clark and Pause introduce Behrens as primarily a Bauhaus designer. For example, in 1906 he was asked to design publicity material for Emil Rathenau's A.E.G., the great electrical combine in Berlin, which had previously employed Adolf Messel and Otto Eckmann as designers. As artistic adviser, his job was to transform the entire image of the huge company. This marked the emergence of corporate identity. Behrens pioneered the concept and put it into practice. He often expounded his belief in the necessity of the unification of art and industry (an important point later taught by his students at the famous Bauhaus school). His identity also included another innovation. For A.E.G. he designed the first corporate typeface with sole ownership and use for and by A.E.G. (Later, the typeface was released for public use.) His involvement there led to his appointment by Emil Rathenau in 1907 as architect and product designer for that firm. (Behrens kept the position until 1914.) His appointment was a milestone in the history of modern architecture and design. He was in charge of graphics and then factory building, workers' housing and also industrial design where he designed light fixtures, fans, kettles, and other products.

From the roots of expressionist architecture, Behrens designed the monumental A. E. G. High Tension Factory. The workshop was primarily glass and iron and had an enormous span. His effect of the trusses pulling toward the outside of the building contrasting with the iron trusses tapering down the inside and aligned with the glass, gave a plastic effect (Clark & Pause, 194). He received criticism of his design since the huge corner masonry piers and the overpowering visual mass of the roof had nothing to do with support of the building. It's massiveness gave the effect of a heavy structure but in fact it was very light by way of hinged steel and a tremendous amount of glass. The factory provided air and space for the workers and was a statement on changing ideals in the architecture and politics for Germany during the industrial age. The employee was rarely thought of in the design of a factory or industrial building before the time of Peter Behrens. The Turbine Factory was Behrens' pride both personally and for Germany. It was a symbol of advancement on the artistic level as well as the industrial level for a nation that had previously been under a black cloud of stagnation.

Using the industrial architecture of Werkbund architects like Peter Behrens, Matthew Jeffries argues that manufacturers chose modern styles for industrial buildings because of the statements such buildings made about the respective industries and the ways in which modern buildings might have advantageously positioned their products in relation to competitors. But aesthetics and economics were not the primary motivations for choosing modern architects: "With its ideas on economic priorities (Qualitätsarbeit), the reform of the workplace, and the role of commerce and industry in society, the Werkbund took political positions and attracted political people. In effect, the selection of a [German Werkbund] architect became a political act".

Peter Behrens was a weapon of progress in Europe in the 20th Century. His designs were looked to inspire the people to believe in the industrialization of the nation and think on a grand scale rather than the bleak economic portrait of the past. Behrens was fundamental of this era as a designer and teacher of the grand school of thought of expressionist industrialization.

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