Bruno Paul: The Life And Work of a Pragmatic Modernist
At the dawn of the 20th century, Bruno Paul (1874-1968) stood like a colossus astride the landscape of an emerging Modernism. As an illustrator, architect and educator his influence was unequalled. Arguably the most important German designer of his generation, his work was ubiquitous in the technical and professional publications of his day. For five decades, Paul's reputation was unparalleled among progressive German artists. As a young man he was a member of the Munich avant-garde responsible for the creation of the Jugendstil. As a designer of furniture and interiors, he achieved a commercial success unmatched by his illustrious contemporaries. In the light of his professional accomplishments, he was the most influential German architect of his generation, a figure of international significance. Ludwig Miss van der Rohe, Adolf Meyer and Kern Weber were among his students, and their work developed from the practices of his atelier, indeed, as director of the Vereinigte Staatsschulen fur freie und angewandte Kunst in Berlin he presided over an institution that rivaled the Bauhaus as a center of progressive instruction in the arts.
Despite the renown he enjoyed at the height of his career, Paul's name has been largely absent from the standard histories of the modern movement. Indeed, this book is the first comprehensive study of his life and work. Nevertheless, Paul's story embodies a significant facet of the history of 20th-century design: the development of Modernism in Central Europe and its coalescence from the influences of Jugendstil, Elemantarism, Classicism, Expressionism and Functionalism. Paul played a prominent role in this coalescence, and he deserves a place of honor in the history of the modern movement. Yet his biography also encompasses a less familiar, but no less significant, aspect of the history of modern design. It cupied a middle ground between avant-garde experimentation and conservative professional practice, a Modernism that was timeless, practical and principled, it was this pragmatic Modernism that won the patronage of the middle classes and established progressive design as an accepted alternative, and eventually as the preferred alternative to the period styles. Moreover Paul's pragmatic Modernism, and its underlying principles, remain as relevant today as when they were first conceived.
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