Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dutch Influence on Peter Behrens

Chair, c.1902
Designed in the Jugendstil/Modern style by Peter Behrens (German, 1868–1940)
Ebonized oak and woven rush
Made by Anton Blüggel, German (Berlin).
39 3/4 x 18 x 21 1/4 inches (101 x 45.7 x 54 cm) Seat height: 18 inches (45.7 cm)
From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (photograph by versluis)

“This chair was designed as part of a dining room display for an exhibition of modern interiors at the Wertheim Department Store in Berlin.” —quote is from Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Dutch art historian Marty Bax writes, “Behrens’s views on the didactic relationship between the arts and craft and industry, and the determining role of aesthetics in the design process most likely were shaped by [J.L.M.] Lauweriks’s concepts. … (1)

Behrens is considered the most influential architect and designer in Germany before the First World War. The new ideas about the integration of art and industry he propagated at the applied arts school in Düsseldorf served as the richest ore to be mined for the pedagogical reform program the Deutsche Werkbund was to develop.” (2)

The label for this artifact published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art states:

Peter Behrens designed this chair for an exhibition of “modern interiors” at the Wertheim department store in Berlin in 1902, to which several other well-known architects and designers contributed, among them the Germans Richard Riemerschmid and August Endell and the Englishman Hugh Baillie Scott. One critic considered Behren’s dining room ‘one of the most interesting [interiors] of the whole series. It is a uniform creation where every shape is subject to the intention of an orderly will… A basic rectangular form… appears as flat ornament on the walls… in the porcelain service, the knotted carpet, and in relief on the silverwares. It takes three-dimensional form and… influences the shape of the furniture, the buffet and sideboard… as well as the construction of the backrest of the chairs.’
Behren’s geometrically systemized interior presented a marked contrast to the dining room of his own house in Darmstadt completed the previous year. There he experimented with the freely curved lines used by the Belgian Art Nouveau designer Henry van de Velde, whose house near Brussels had been widely publicized in Germany. Only in its arched back and waisted legs does this chair recall that earlier style, while its form is defined by the flat rectangular pattern of the pierced crest rail and horizontal stretchers that join splat and back posts. In its embodiment of an abstract geometrical order, the chair anticipates Behrens’s work for the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG), where as a pioneer in the practice of industrial design, he conceived not only the buildings but also the products and publicity material of this electric company. Kathryn B. Hiesinger and George H. Marcus, from Guides to European Decorative Arts: Design, 1900-1940 (1987) 6 (3)
  1. Bax, Marty. Bauhaus Lecture Notes 1930-1933. Amsterdam: Architectura & Natura Press, 1991. 17. Print.
  2. Ibid. 18
  3. “Collections: European Decorative Arts and Sculpture.” Philadelphia Museum of Ar. Philadelphia Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.

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