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Lucian Bernhard

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Lucian Bernhard

*  1883 Stuttgart
† 1972 New York


The designer and graphic artist Lucian Bernhard was born in Stuttgart in 1883; his real name was Emil Kahn but he assumed the pseudonym Lucian Bernhard in 1905. Bernhard studied at the Munich Art Academy before moving to Berlin, where he freelanced as a graphic artist. Lucian Bernhard designed advertizing posters, becoming one of the most important German poster artists. Initially Lucian Bernhard worked in the style launched by the Beggarstaff brothers, the British artists William Nicholson (1872-1949) and James Pryde (1866-1941), who revolutionized poster design between 1894 and 1898. The Beggarstaff brothers in turn were inspired by the French doyen of poster art, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and stylistically by the Japanese woodcut. Its characteristic features were a spacious, clearly articulated composition in a reduced palette with the focus on the picture itself. Lucian Bernhard developed the model further, thus exerting a paramount stylistic influence on the product advertizing poster. The representation of the product to be advertized was combined with the trademark or the company name against a simple colored background. The lettering and positioning of company names such as Bosch, Kaffee Hag, and Pelikan, as created by Lucian Bernhard is still noticeably reminiscent of his original models. In 1914 Lucian Bernhard worked for Bosch, designing the famous poster featuring the simplified representation of a sparkplug with a spark appropriately flaring up from its tip and next to it, in large, densely outlined lettering, the company name. In the decade from 1910 to 1920, Lucian Bernhard was still working chiefly as a designer and was artistic director of the Deutsche Werkstätten Dresden-Hellerau, designing furniture, wallpaper, carpets, and lighting. In 1920 Lucian Bernhard became the world's first professor of poster art, at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Three years later, however, Lucian Bernhard went to New York, where he opened a branch of his Berlin design studio. In the course of his career, Lucian Bernhard designed some thirty-six new scripts. Lucian Bernhard also worked as an architect, designing office buildings, factory buildings and numerous dwellings. Around 1930 he turned to painting and sculpture.