Hermann Muthesius

Architect and writer

B/W Photograph of Hermann Muthesius

Hermann Muthesius (1861–1927) was an architect and architectural historian. After graduating from the Realgymnasium in Weimar, he studied art history and philosophy at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin, from 1881 to 1883. He spent a year of military service before pursing architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg (Berlin). After a period with the office of Paul Wallot he joined the major Berlin practice, Ende & Böckmann. During his time with the firm he spent four years in Tokyo, from 1887 to 1891; his major designs included a Gothic Revival German church. While there he studied Japanese art and design, and assembled an important collection of Japanese artefacts. 1 On his return to Germany he joined the Prussian Ministry of Public Works and was appointed Cultural and Technical Attaché at the German Embassy, London, from 1896 to 1903, with a remit to report on British art, architecture and technical achievements. His major output, and the work for which he is best known, was begun during this period: Das englische Haus, published in three volumes by Ernst Wasmuth, Berlin, between 1904 and 1905. This was an exhaustive survey of British 19th-century domestic architecture, and included Mackintosh and contemporaries, notably William Lethaby, William Morris, Norman Shaw, C. F. A. Voysey and Philip Webb.

Following his return to Germany in 1903, Muthesius took up a post in the Prussian Ministry of Trade, continued to write on architecture and design and resumed his architectural career, concentrating on house design. He continued to debate the relationship between craftsmanship and industry. In 1907 he lectured at the Handelhochschule, Berlin, praising new construction methods and materials such as steel and reinforced concrete. The Fachverband für die wirtschaftlichen Interessen des Kunstgewerbes (Association for the Economic Interests of the Arts and Crafts) attacked him as being disloyal to German products. The ensuing controversy (the 'Muthesius Affair') led to the withdrawal of Muthesius's supporters from the Fachverband and the founding of the Deutscher Werkbund, which aimed to bring quality design standards to mass-produced objects.

During their years in London, Muthesius and his wife, the singer and dress reform campaigner, Anna Trippenbach (1870–1961) lived at The Priory, Hammersmith. Their circle came to include the Mackintoshes, George Walton, Francis and Jessie Newbery, Frank Brangwyn and others. Their friendship with the Mackintoshes was close, and visits between the couples are recorded. 2 Mackintosh was godfather to their son, Eckart (b. 1904), for whom he designed a set of cutlery. 3 . Anna Muthesius's publication Das Eigenkleid der Frau (Krefeld: Kramer & Tree, 1903) included photographs of the work of Margaret and Frances Macdonald and Jessie Newbery.

Photograph of oil on canvas painting, Francis Newbery, 'Anna Muthesius'

Muthesius was an active supporter of progressive British designers. He wrote an insightful article on Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, 'Die Glasgower Kunstbewegung: Charles R. Mackintosh und Margaret Macdonald-Mackintosh', Dekorative Kunst, 9, 1902 pp. 193–221, and contributed the preface to the Mackintoshes' House for an Art Lover portfolio. His other publications reflected his enthusiasm for British architecture and design. In addition to Das englische Haus, these included Die englische Baukunst der Gegenwart (1900), a folio publication of different types of British buildings; Die neuere kirchliche Baukunst in England (1901), focused on modern church building; Stilarchitektur und Baukunst (1902) praising the ideas of William Morris; and Landhaus und Garten (1907) outlining the role of the English garden in domestic architecture.


1: Neil Jackson, 'Found in translation: Mackintosh, Muthesius and Japan', Journal of Architecture, 18.2, 2013, pp. 196–224.

2: Berlin, Werkbundarchiv, Museum der Dinge: Hermann Muthesius Estate, letters from the Mackintoshes to the Muthesiuses, 16 April 1902, [August 1902], 13 March 1903, 27 March 1903.

3: Design, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, GLAHA 41937; cutlery and box, Decorative Art Museum, Hamburg