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BEHRENS, Peter BEHRENS biography by Senses-ArtNouveau.com


(1868 - 1940)

German architect, designer and applied-arts artist

P.Behrens - pewter tableware designed around 1906

Peter BEHRENS was born in Hamburg, Germany. He studied painting and architecture in Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Karlsruhe. Inspired by the emerging Art Nouveau style, he first worked as a painter, illustrator and book-binder as he frequented the bohemian circles and took part to the Munich Secession. In 1899, he became member of the artist colony created in Darmstadt. He built there his own house and designed all decorative elements inside (furniture, paintings, pottery, tableware). At this stage of his life, he left the artistic circles of Munich: his artistic desires moved away from the exuberance of Jugendstil and he began to produce more sober and austere designs.

During this period, Behrens was attracted by various artistic enterprises particularly design in applied arts, such as ceramics and was interested in the reform of life-styles and taste-making that was growing in the artistic spheres all over Europe. Behrens developed an elegant geometric, functional style that was between Jugendstil and Industrial Classicism and was forecasting the Modernism movement that would emerge later on in Germany.

Jugendstil Collection by Senses Art Nouveau

See our JUGENDSTIL Collection

In 1902, Behrens designed the much appreciated entrance for the German pavilion at the Turin Exhibition and in 1903 he was named director of the Kunstgewerberschule in Düsseldorf.
In 1907, Behrens created the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), together with other companies and designers or architects, such as Theodor Fischer, J. Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Fritz Schumacher. The Werkbund was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and they began to develop similar novative ideas on artworks, industry, social changes, economy and culture.

Appointed in 1907 artistic supervisor for the German company AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft), he built its factories and workers' housing, created the company's corporate identity by designing its trademark, stationery, catalogues and products and he began using new building techniques and new materials such as concrete, bricks, exterior steel supports and glass.

Wine service in pewter, silver and oak designed by P.Behrens around 1906

He employed and worked with some of his students and assistants, that would later become the pioneers of Modernism and exceptional visionnary artists, such as Dutch designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, French arhitect Le Corbusier or Walter Gropius (who later became the first director of the Bauhaus).

In 1922, he taught at the Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in Vienna and in 1936, he became the director of the Architecture Department of at the Prussian Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. That period was the beginning of the Nazi era and, as Beherens was admired by some of the Third Reich political responsible, he could continue his work,teaching and researches without restrictions.

Pewter tea set designed by P.Behrens

Peter Behrens was one of the most important forerunners of modernism and functionalism, as much as fellow contemporary designers, architects and painters Henri van de Velde, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, J. Hoffmann or Gustav Klimt and Mies van der Rohe.

Portrait of Peter Behrens


- Behrens House, Darmstadt, Germany, 1899;
- AEG Turbine Factory Berlin, Germany, 1909; - AEG Factory, Berlin, Germany, 1910;
- Office building of the Hoechst AG, Frankfurt,Germany, 1920-1925;
- Winarsky-Hof (with J. Frank, J. Hoffmann, O. Strnad, Wlach), Vienna, Austria, 1924;
- Franz-Domes-Hof, Vienna, Austria, 1928;
- Tobacco Factory. Linz, Austria, 1929-1935 (with A. Popp).

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