Held in Dresden in 1906, the Third German Arts and Crafts Exhibition signaled a new direction in design and interior decoration and led to the founding of the German Werkbund the following year. The Werkbund, whose members included Peter Behrens (1868-1957), Fritz Schumacher (1869-1947), and Hermann Muthesius (1861-1927), advocated a renewed emphasis on the functionality of everyday objects and increased attention to the quality of German craftsmanship. Their enterprise was a protest against what they saw as the physical and spiritual degradation of modern life as well as a call for artistic, ethical, and social renewal.
That the exhibition poster was so clearly inspired by the Jugendstil (i.e., the floral motifs, the figure’s flowing hair and dress) is ironic, since that German Werkbund championed a new style that supplanted it. The poster was designed by Otto Gussmann (1869-1926), a professor at the Dresden Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Among his most famous students were Max Pechstein (1881-1955), a member of Die Brücke [The Bridge], and Otto Dix (1891-1969). Gussmann, it is interesting to note, was also a “passive member” of Die Brücke. (The group had a two-tiered membership system: the artists themselves – Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff – constituted the active membership, while their patrons and supporters constituted the passive membership. In exchange for an annual contribution, passive members received portfolios of original prints, a membership card, and other perks.)