Peter Behrens (1886–1940 · designer / architect)

Born in Hamburg in 1868, Behrens is considered an important pioneer of modern industrial and graphic design. He started out as an artist, studying painting at the art academies of Karlsruhe, Düsseldorf and finally in Munich, where he co-founded various artists' associations. In the years that followed, he became involved in the applied arts, although this discipline did not formally exist at that time. In 1899, Behrens was appointed to the Darmstadt-Mathildenhöhe artists' colony, a model in the spirit of the Art Nouveau and Reform movements that aimed to demonstrate an exemplary collaboration between arts and crafts. Behrens created a landmark in the form of his private residence in Darmstadt, for which he also designed the entire interior. In 1903, at the age of 34, he was appointed director of the Düsseldorf School of Applied Arts, a position he held until 1907. The same year, Behrens became a co-founder of the craftsmen's association Deutscher Werkbund, and moved to Berlin to set up his own architectural practice. The office worked with holistic methods and developed into an important training ground for Modernism. Its staff included the architects Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier before they became famous. Also in 1907, Peter Behrens was appointed artistic director by German electrical goods maker AEG, whose image he would help to shape in the years that followed. At AEG, Behrens designed not only numerous industrial and administrative buildings, but also household appliances, logos, advertising graphics and typefaces. He is considered a pioneer of modern graphic design. In 1921, Behrens was appointed to the Düsseldorf Art Academy. A year later, he was named head of the Master School of Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. From 1936, he held a similar post at the Academy of Arts in Berlin, where he died from heart failure in 1940.