Culture

The golden generation of Danish design

The Danish way of life is celebrated all over the world. The term “Hygge”, which belongs only to the Danes, defines a way of life in which the interior is warm and cozy. A generation of Danish architects and designers embodied this concept to impose Danish design on the international scene after World War II. Their names are Hans WEGNER, Arne JACOBSEN, Borge MOGENSEN, Verner PANTON, for the best known. Focus on these exceptional designers who shaped the golden age of Danish design in the 50s and 60s.

Architect and furniture designer, Kaare KLINT (1888-1954) is considered the father of modern Scandinavian design. We owe him the passage of the Danish decorative arts towards the world famous design which will explode in the 1950s. Rather than turning to the cold aesthetics of the Bauhaus, KLINT continues the Scandinavian tradition of high quality cabinetmaking combined with simple and functional forms: a return to craftsmanship, but with the desire to create practical furniture, correctly sized and therefore comfortable!

Faaborg chair, design Kaare KLINT, 1915. A chair created for the Faaborg Museum in Denmark. A perfect marriage between the search for a functional object (the seat is very light and can be moved) and a modern design.
Faaborg chair, design Kaare KLINT, 1915. A chair created for the Faaborg Museum in Denmark. A perfect marriage between a functional object (the seat is very light and can be moved) and a modern design.
Safari chair, design Kaare KLINT, 1933. Made of solid wood with natural leather straps and armrests. Klint reinterprets a light and removable seat used by British officers during their expeditions in the African colonies.

In 1924, Kaare KLINT was appointed director of the new School of Furniture Design in Copenhagen, within the architecture section of the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts. He was to train a good part of the golden generation of Danish design in these avant-garde ideas…

Among them, his most gifted representative is undoubtedly Hans WEGNER (1914-2007). Trained by the master cabinetmaker Stahlberg, without a diploma, since he did not finish his studies at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen, WEGNER worked directly with the architects Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen, then founded his design studio. His breakthrough came with the design of the Round Chair, which was featured on the cover of American Interiors magazine in 1950 and was named “the most beautiful chair in the world”. The whole world discovered the genius of Danish design, which opened two exceptional decades that marked its golden age.

The Round Chair, design Hans WEGNER, 1949. The Round Chair, known as “The Chair”, embodies the DNA of Danish design: organic soft shapes, pure style and ergonomics. A cult seat of modern design
The Round Chair, design Hans WEGNER, 1949. Praised for its ergonomics, the Round Chair was used by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy who suffered from back pain during his televised interview with Richard Nixon in September 1960.

CH07 armchair, design Hans WEGNER, 1963. A seat that symbolizes the genius of WEGNER: purity of form and line, lightness and comfort. It has been manufactured since 1998 by the Danish publisher Carl Hansen & Søn;

The Danish designers’ preference for functional, well-proportioned – Kaare KLINT’s obsession with measurements – and comfortable furniture goes hand in hand with curved, enveloping lines. The architect and designer Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) is the one who will push the furthest the research for an organic design, in opposition to the geometric aesthetics of the Bauhaus theories. At the end of the 1950s, to furnish the lobby and reception areas of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, Arne Jacobsen created two iconic chairs that would become famous for their organic style and warm and cozy atmosphere: the Swan chair and the Egg chair.

Furnishing the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. In the foreground, from left to right, the Egg armchair and the Cygne armchair designed by Arne JACOBSEN. 2 seats became cult with enveloping forms and always incredibly modern!
Set of Ant chair, design by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, 1952. The Ant Chair is a chair representative of Jacobsen’s creativity for organic design. It evokes the shape of an ant. Minimalism, durability and comfort…

Borge MOGENSEN (1914-1972), a close friend of Hans WEGNER and born the same year as the latter, designed simple, elegant and functional pieces of furniture, in line with the design taught by Kaare KLINT. His career is marked by his collaboration with the Danish publisher Fredericia Stolefabrik, which began in 1955. If the Danish design takes off in the 50s, it also owes it to publishers and manufacturers particularly inspired. Among the best known are: Fritz Hansen – 1872, Louis Poulsen – 1874, Søborg Møbelfabrik – 1890, Carl Hansen & Søn – 1908, FDB Møbler – 1942, PP Mobler – 1953. All have worked closely with the country’s top designers. Together with WEGNER and JACOBSEN, MOGENSEN raised Danish design to an international level.

Andreas GRAVERSEN (left) and Borge MOGENSEN. The buyer and owner of the Danish publisher Fredericia will establish a very strong relationship and a fruitful collaboration with the Danish designer until the latter’s death.
Hunting 2229 armchair, design Borge MOGENSEN for Fredericia, 1950. Certainly the most original and well known piece of the designer: an armchair designed for the fall exhibition of the Cabinetmakers Guild whose theme was: “The Hunting Lodge”
Sleighchair 2254 in oak and orange fabric, design Borge MOGENSEN, 1950s.
Pair of 2207 “Lounge Chair”, design Borge MOGENSEN for Fredericia, 1963. A distinguished silhouette.

Another renowned Danish designer, Finn JUHL (1912-1989) is known for his furniture pieces with an extreme purity of design, which makes him less popular than his peers, WEGNER and MOGENSEN. And yet, his seats are of a rare elegance… He is credited with introducing and popularizing Danish design in the United States where he taught

Chair 45, design Finn JUHL. Made of oak or walnut and covered with fabric or leather, the 45 has an exceptional grace…
Chair 45, design Finn JUHL, view from behind.

Finally, we cannot evoke the golden age of Danish design without mentioning 2 singular figures: Poul HENNINGSEN (1894-1967), a contemporary of Kaare KLINT, and Verner PANTON (1926-1998), the enfant terrible of Danish design. The first illuminated a large part of the previous century with an uncommon science of lighting. The latter marked the 60s with his whimsical and psychedelic universe, very colorful, taking full advantage of the arrival of plastic materials in the furniture industry.

In 1960, Verner PANTON realized one of his most famous projects: the design and interior of the hotel-restaurant ASTORIA in Trondheim (Norway). Verner PANTON used the Geometry I to IV textile design for the floors, walls and ceilings to give the room a certain uniformity.
The chairs used are different versions of the Panton Cone Chair and the Heart Cone Chair. The chairs grouped around the tables and the Topan lighting fixtures work together to divide the large room into individual living rooms with an intimate feel.

Any Dane will tell you: lighting designer Poul HENNINGSEN is a legend in his country. There is hardly a home that does not have at least one lamp from the PH series designed by this architect and writer. Faithful throughout his life to the Danish publisher Louis Poulsen, Poul HENNINGSEN created more than a hundred lamps for the “PH” range. The designer’s avant-garde idea was to design multiple shades and diffusers to provide a warm and diffused light.

PH Artichoke lamp, designed by Poul HENNINGSEN for Louis Poulsen, 1957. Perhaps the most famous light of Danish design.
PH Artichoke, design Poul HENNINGSEN for Louis Poulsen, 1957. 72 slats carefully arranged in 12 rows of 6 slats each provide glare-free light. A refined and comfortable lighting…

If Poul HENNINGSEN and Verner PANTON offer a less conventional design than their illustrious compatriots, their creations all have perfect proportions. A know-how that Kaare KLINT, master of the treatment of proportions, could not deny… Elegance, simplicity of form, ergonomics and functionality, these are the essential features of post-war Danish design, which continues to inspire designers around the world.

François BOUTARD