13 March 2013

From Fukagawa To Munich: Peter Behrens

He did his best work as an architect and designer but, whether you recognize his name or not, Peter Behrens (1866-1940) is most familiar for a woodblock print from Pan. a short-lived literary magazine published in Berlin from 1896-1900.  Whenever there is a revival of interest in Art Nouveau,  there is The Kiss.   Behrens gave the woodblock print to his friend, the poet Richard Dehmel, who displayed it in his dining room.
Printing from woodblocks was one aspect of the late 19th century interest in all things Japanese.  I had not thought particularity  of Peter Behrens in that connection until I saw Storm, a print Behrens made the year before The Kiss.  Obviously a reinterpretation of one of Hiroshige's 100 Famous Views of Edo (Tokyo), Behrens drew freely on the extravagantly curvilinear  style popular among the artists of Pan and Jugend, especially his friend the influential Otto Eckmann.

 Behrens removed any signs of human habitation from the landscape to make room for the play of wind and waves.  The absence of waterbirds also has the effect of making the eagle seem less menacing.  The eagle's wings curve in harmony with the imaginary lines of the wind; he might almost be mistaken for  a kite on a windy day.   In Behrens's version the large bird functions as a framing device, similar to Hiroshige's use of a giant paper lantern in Kinyruzan Temple Asakusa, another of the 100 Views.   Behrens gave Storm to the playwright Otto Hartleben who hung it in - his dining room! 


1. Peter Behrens - Sturm (Storm), 1897, State Museum, Berlin.
2. Peter Behrens - The Kiss (Der Kuss),  1898, Musuem of Modern Art, NYC.
3. Utgawa Hiroshige - Kinryuzan Temple, Asakura, July, 1856, Broolyn Museum. 
4. Utagawa  Hiroshige - Eagle over the Fields of Susaki at Fukagawa, May, 1857, Musee Guimet, Paris.

Articles posted here on another contemporary dining room, this one designed by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer and reconstructed for display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City:

1. The Wisteria Dining Room - March 22, 2010.
2. Lucien Levy-Dhurmer At The Metropolitan, May 27, 2008.