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Hermann Muthesius

(1861—1927)


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(1861–1927)

Muthesius was an important link between the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and progressive design circles in early 20th‐century Germany. He had been appointed as architectural attaché to the German Embassy in London in 1896 and came into contact with a number of leading British designers such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Walter Crane. He researched widely into British architecture and design, publishing many articles on the British arts and crafts in the periodical Dekorative Kunst, his studies culminating in the three‐volumed Das englische Haus (1904–5). After returning to Germany in 1903 he was entrusted with the responsibility for art and design education at the Prussian Ministry of Trade and Industry. He was appointed as the first chair of the Applied Arts at Berlin Commercial University in 1907 and sought to promote better standards of design in German industry through greater stress on quality, modernity, and aesthetic excellence. He was also a founder member of the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB) in 1907 and continued to promote a radical agenda for design reform. He was committed to the adoption of standardized forms that were compatible with economic, modern mass‐production techniques although this position was heavily opposed by fellow DWB member Henry van de Velde who believed that individual artistic creativity was being stifled at the expense of economic, industrial, and political interests. This debate about standardization came to the fore at the Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914. At around this time, like a number of other designers associated with the DWB, he was commissioned to design interiors for German transatlantic liners. During the First World War Muthesius took on a more overtly nationalist stance, arguing that due to Germany's enforced freedom from dependency on foreign influences there was greater opportunity for commitment to a modern German style. He continued to work for the Ministry of Trade and Industry until 1926. Shortly before he died in 1927 he was critical of the DWB's Weissenhof housing exhibition in Stuttgart, seeing it as driven by formalist rather than functionalist principles.

Subjects: Architecture.


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