(b. 1868, Hamburg, d. 1940, Berlin)


German architect, designer and painter. 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. Behrens was one of the founder-members of the Munich Secession in 1893 and, shortly afterwards, a founder of the more progressive Freie Vereinigung Münchener Künstler.

Behrens regularly exhibited paintings and woodcuts in the 1890s (e.g. The Kiss, 1899; Museum of Art, Philadelphia). At the end of the decade, he decided to abandon painting in favour of the applied arts. His first graphic works and designs for glass, porcelain, jewellery and furniture appeared in 1898 and 1899.

In 1899, he became a member of the artist colony in Darmstadt, built there his own house, and designed all decorative elements inside (furniture, paintings, pottery, tableware). He left the artistic circles of Munich, moved away from the exuberance of Jugendstil and began to produce more sober and austere designs. Behrens developed an elegant geometric, functional style that was between Jugendstil and Industrial Classicism, forecasting the Modernism movement that would emerge later on in Germany.

In 1902, Behrens designed the much-appreciated entrance for the German pavilion at the Turin Exhibition; in 1903, he was named director of the Kunstgewerberschule in Düsseldorf. In 1907, Behrens created the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), together with various companies, designers and architects. The Werkbund was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, and they began to develop similar innovative ideas on artworks, industry, social changes, economy and culture.

In 1907, Behrens was called to Berlin as artistic adviser to AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft), and from this time, his work shows the marked influence of Prussian classicism. For AEG, he built factories and workers' housing, created the company's corporate identity by designing its trademark, stationery, catalogues and products. He began using new building techniques and new materials such as concrete, bricks, exterior steel supports and glass.

Behrens’s contract with AEG also left him free to work on other commissions, and in 1910-11 he was involved in several major schemes, including the German Embassy at St Petersburg, the administration building of the Mannesmann Röhren-Werke in Düsseldorf and the Continentale-Gummi-Werke in Hannover.

After World War I, Behrens completely reassessed his architectural language and abandoned the stereometric rationality and the classicism of his pre-war work. The I. G. Farben dye-works (1920-24) at Hoechst was the most impressive product of his Expressionist phase.

In 1922, he taught at the Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in Vienna and in 1936, he became the director of the Architecture Department of the Prussian Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. He joined the Nazi Party and later worked on Hitler's plans for redesigning Berlin.