Lucian Bernhard

Lucian Bernhard was a German designer and graphic artist from the early 20th century. He studied at the Munich Art Academy and later moved to Berlin and New York to pursue commercial work. The Beggarstaff Brothers, and British artists William Nicholson and James Pryde mainly influenced him in his work in advertising and modern design. His client list included names such as Cat’s Paw, Westinghouse, Bosh, Priester, Manoli, and many more. Before Bernhard started his work, posters in Berlin were more ornate and wordy; Bernhard’s posters simplified design. The style of Berhard’s work is most clearly described from his quote: “You see with your eyes, not your brain”. He emphasized working by instinct, and his work reflected that.


Early on in his career Berhard did very simple design work, making pieces that would change the history of poster design. When he won the Priester Matches Company poster contest he created the first Sachplakat, or object poster. This piece highlights the match company with minimal bold letters and a plain image. The companies name along with a simplistic image of matches is placed in the center of a black background. These two features are both shown in bold color. The only other subject matter on the page is Bernhard’s usual signature, bold BERN and HARD in the lower left corner of the frame. Later in Bernhard’s career, he turned towards early German gothic poster style. During World War 1, he worked for the German government making poster propaganda. His work during this time is recognized by its stark images and bright colored letters to highlight important words, like in his poster: This is the way to peace—the enemy wants it that way. This piece in particular, and others during this period, are more dramatic than his earlier work, and used an older-looking textura font.


During his career, Lucian Bernhard shaped the style of product and advertising posters. He’s one of the most important German poster artists in history, being very influential in the development of the Sachplakat, or object poster.




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