Chapter 5: The Art of Danish Furniture

While reading chapter five of Bel Canto I was not being drawn to anything in particular. It wasn’t until I read, “He [Messner] should be back in his overpriced apartment in Geneva with the good view and the Danish Modern furniture he had so carefully collected.” My background in art along with my love for HGTV (Home and Garden Television) allowed me to question what was is special about “Danish Modern furniture”? Why would it need to be “carefully collected”?

Danish furniture is a subcategory of Scandinavian designed furniture. Scandinavian Design refers to the design movement that emerged in the 1950s in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, as well as Finland and Iceland. Some key design elements of Scandinavia design is a light color palate, ample use of wood, and minimalism mixed with functionality.1 Scandinavian countries are typically cold climate areas. Therefore, most of everyone’s time is spent indoors, the home in particular. Functionality being their top priority was based on their abundant time spent at home, they needed comfortable furniture. There is a close connection to the furniture and nature. Thoughtfulness is implemented into the Scandinavian Designs though their use of natural materials. Their use of these materials was developed by the Scandinavian’s believing that the designs from Bauhaus was too cold and rigid.1 “The focus of Danish design, the object that had the longest-lasting influence, was the chair.”2 The different demographics of Scandinavia produced a selection of diverse furniture. The variations adapted by these cultures kept the furniture new and exciting and allowed for a strong artist process.

“Aesthetics must always follow function. Should the latter be neglected, neither the eye nor the soul can ever attain satisfaction,” is how Friedrich Hetsch, the architect and designer for Royal Copenhagen.1 This quote by Hetsch encapsulates the characteristics of Danish design. While much of Scandinavian design was “anti-Bauhaus”, Danish design had strong influences from Bauhaus ideals and designs. Danish designers had strong inspiration from cultures around the world. Danish designers were fond of and open to new ideas as well as cultures. Denmark’s inspirations included, American Shaker chairs, English Regency furniture and Asian art.1 Danish designs would take these pieces and give them a cozy twist. The “homey factor” found within Danish furniture design is captured by their use of natural woods, light color palate, soft curves and rounded corners. Denmark really pioneered the furniture market through the mid 1900’s. No other country has been as successful as Denmark with producing high quality design classics to the world of furniture.1 Some popular names in the Denmark Furniture design hall of fame are, Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton and Hans J. Wegner, to name just a few. Danish Modern design is considered to have been between 1930 and 1970. Real growth of this design movement developed after World War II. This was due to the high demand of goods after the war was over. 2

Arne Jacobsen is a pioneer of Danish design also a well-known architect. He is most recognized for his representatives of modernist steel construction, the Ant chair and also his Modell No. 3107 from the series 7 1955.1 Modell No. 3107 is known as one of the design classics produced during this era. Svanen and Egget is an impressive design from 1957 by Arne Jacobsen. By analyzing Jacobsen’s furniture designs there is an obvious style to his pieces. Large rounded corners adorn the edges of the chairs. Back rests and seat areas are rather wide with a slight curvature to hold your body comfortably. Jacobsen would mix industrial process and material with organic lines and form.

The pioneer of these particular style is Kaare Klint. He worked in the early part of the early 20th century. Klint was a founder in 1924 at a furniture school in Copenhagen called the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.2 His passion of design allowed him to gain respect and throughout his career he produced very detailed studies about proportions and forms.2 This attention to proportions played a huge role in him designing not furniture that was comfortable and practical, but also visually pleasing. Danish designers either a followed the Kaare Klint philosophy or completely rejected it.

I find it very interesting that something as practical as a chair or couch can be seen as valuable. There were many collectors I found during my research searching for particular pieces by certain artists. Through the research of the Scandinavian furniture design with a concentration on Danish design I found that furniture can be seen as an art form. There is careful thought put into each piece and a large precedence of designs that came before.

Sources:
1. “Scandinavian Design.” Characteristics of Scandinavian Design. World Guide. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <http://www.worldguide.eu/wg/index.php?StoryID=148&ArticleID=23189&ChapterID=2&gt;.

  1. Keane, Maribeth. “For the Love of Danish Modern Furniture.” Collectors Weekly. 28 May 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/danish-modern-author-andrew-hollingsworth-an-interview-with-collectors-weekly/&gt;.
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