Herbert Behrens-Hangeler, born Herbert Behrens, had an early interest in Dadaism. In 1920, Behrens-Hangeler founded the artists’ group “Der Wurf”. He also was a student of Lovis Corinth. He also joined the November Group in Berlin, which he was part of until it was dissolved in 1933. In 1932, he founded the group “Selection” along with Lyonel Feininger, Max Beckmann, Karl Hofer and others. In 1933, he was denounced as a “degenerate” artist by the Nazis. He was forbidden from exercising his profession. The painter Wolfgang Willrich published an inflammatory book in 1937 entitled Säuberung des Kunsttempels in which he denounced 174 artists of the “Red November Group”, including Behrens-Hangeler.
Behrens-Hangeler entered the film industry as a colour specialist, and later worked as a director of colour films. He continued to paint, but secretly, at night. Behrens-Hangeler avoided military service and hid from the authorities in the Rhineland. After 1945 he lived in the GDR and engaged in experimental photography. But he was attacked for making “formalist art” and compelled to go into inner emigration. He no longer participated in state exhibitions. From 1949 onwards he taught painting and colour theory at the Academy of Applied Art in Berlin-Weissensee.