Peter Behrens – 150

This year the 150th anniversary of the birth of Peter Behrens (1868-1940) is celebrated.  He was one of the most innovative designers and architects of the early 20th century and is recognized as a pioneer of modern industrial design. In his role as chief designer for the German company AEG he developed its corporate design encompassing the logo, publicity material, the form of the goods and the industrial buildings. With the turbine hall in Berlin Moabit he created an icon of industrial architecture.

AEG turbine hall in Berlin Moabit by rucativava via Wikimedia Commons

The anniversary is being marked by exhibitions at three museums in North Rhine-Westphalia: the Museum of Applied Arts (MAKK) in Cologne, the LVR-Industriemuseum in Oberhausen and the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld. Each exhibition is devoted to a particular aspect of Behrens’ work. The exhibition in Cologne is devoted to Behrens’ work in the field of applied arts and concentrates on his early work. The exhibition in Oberhausen concentrates on his work in the fields of architecture and industrial design.  And the focus of the Krefeld exhibition is the collaboration between Behrens and Friedrich Deneken, founding director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum.

The exhibitions are accompanied by a set of publications, each of which is dedicated to a particular topic. The library will acquire this set in due course. It will add to our already substantial holdings of publications on Behrens as we have aimed to acquire all available exhibition catalogues and monographs relating to Peter Behrens. The latest catalogue we have catalogued recently is Peter Behrens : vom Jugendstil zum Industriedesign which accompanied the major exhibition held in 2013 in Erfurt.

Two titles held by the library warrant particular attention. First, the recently published edition of Peter Behrens’ collected writings, Zeitloses und Zeitbewegtes : Aufsätze, Vorträge, Gespräche, 1900-1938. This substantial publication gathers for the first time the numerous essays, lectures, etc., which Behrens wrote over the course of his long career. This is a scholarly edition with extensive commentary but also a very well designed book, a fitting tribute to Behrens the book designer. The Stiftung Buchkunst included it in the 25 best-designed German books for 2016.

Two double-page spreads from Zeitloses und Zeitbewegtes (click on image to see enlarged)

Secondly, we are proud to hold one of the finest examples of Behrens’ work in book design. For the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 he designed the official catalogue for the exhibition of the German empire. This catalogue, Weltausstellung in St. Louis 1904 : amtlicher Katalog der Ausstellung des Deutschen Reichs, was produced in a limited edition of 300 copies and printed in three colours throughout on Zanders high quality paper with a fine leather binding. While the design here is reminiscent of the Art nouveau style it is a unique Behrens creation.

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Christian Staufenbiel

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