Svenskt Tenn was a well-known Swedish design company and store was founded in Stockholm in 1924 by Estrid Ericson, a designer and entrepreneur, and Nils Fougstedt, a pewter designer, and did much to promote Scandinavian design abroad thanks to its long-standing success in the export market.
Ericson was awarded a Gold Medal for her pewter designs at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels, where the company exhibited successfully.
This was followed by more success in the United States, which began in 1927 with a Swedish design exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which also toured to Chicago and Detroit. The Wanamaker department store in New York began selling Svenskt Tenn products the same year.
Svenskt Tenn expanded its interests in manufacturing furniture and rugs by progressive designers such as Uno hren in 1930. The company’s products were also featured in the critically acclaimed 1931 Swedish Design exhibition Dorland Hall in London.
Josef Frank, who became artistic director of Svenskt Tenn in 1933, was also instrumental in spreading a distinctly modern aesthetic, as his many designs for furniture, textiles, lighting, and other household items were sold by the shop. Many of the more austere Modernist designs on display at the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930 were less stark in appearance.
Showings of the company’s designs as part of the Swedish contributions to the Paris Exposition des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne 1937, the New York World’s Fair of 1939–40, and the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 helped further recognition of the company’s designs. In 1938, the company held an exhibition dedicated to William Morris, demonstrating its devotion to contemporary design and its origins in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Ericson and Frank had a fruitful working relationship until Frank died in 1967. After WWII, the company’s success continued, with exhibitions such as Josef Frank: 20 Years at Svenskt Tenn at the National Museum in Stockholm in 1952 and a memorial exhibition of Frank’s work at the same venue in 1968 bringing the company even more recognition. Ericson sold the company to the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation seven years later, though she continued to design actively and served as the managing director of Svenskt Tenn until 1978.
Svenskt Tenn has continued to promote the best in contemporary design since then, exhibiting younger designers in exhibitions and marketing other lines that adhere to the Swedish Modern aesthetic.
Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.
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