Hans J. Wegner Danish Furniture Designer

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Hans Wegner featured image

Traditional Craftmanship

Hans J. Wegner (1914 – 2007) was a Danish furniture designer. His work and a concerted effort on the part of several of his manufacturers contributed to the international prominence of Danish design in the 1950s. Organic Functionality, a modernist school emphasising Functionality, is a term used to define his style. With contributions by Poul Henningsen, Alvar Aalto, and Arne Jacobsen, this school of thought originated predominantly in Scandinavian countries.

Education & training

In 1931 he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker in Tønder and at Teknologisk Institut. Between 1936 and 1938, he studied at the Akademiets Arkitektstole. In 1938 at the Kunsthåndvaerkerskolen, both in Copenhagen.

Biography

He worked as an assistant to Arne Jacobsen and Erik Moller from 1938 to 1943. He founded his own office in Gentofte in 1943. He lectured at the Kunsthandveerkerskolen in Copenhagen from 1946 to 1953.

After meeting Johannes Hansen in 1940 or 1941, he designed several pieces for Hansen in Copenhagen, notably The Chair in 1949. Later, he created over 500 models for AP-stolen, FDB, Danish CWS, Getama, Carl Hansen, Fritz Hansen, CM Furniture, Planmobel, P.P. Mobler, and Ry Mobler. He designed the interiors of major corporations’ headquarters.

Armchair 1949, Hans J. Wegner
Armchair 1949, Hans J. Wegner

He designed tubular steel furniture later on and the 1960 Bull chair and ottoman in leather upholstery. He is most known for his early wood pieces, several of which are still in production today. Furniture, silverware, lights, and wallpaper were among the items in his collection. Johannes Hansens Mobelsnedkeri’s Pafuglestolen (Peacock) chair from 1947 has a striking bentwood back.

Exhibitions

  • Showed work at Cabinetmakers’ Guild of Copenhagen; 1949— 52, was involved in the mounting and arrangement of the Danish art and handicraft exhibitions. 
  • Received 1951 Lunning Prize; awards at the 1951 (IX) (grand prize), 
  • 1954 (X) (diploma of honour and gold medal), and 
  • 1957 (XI) (silver medal) at the Triennali di Milano; 
  • 1956 Eckersberg Medal; 
  • 1959 and 1965 Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild prize; 
  • 1959 Citation of Merit from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York; 
  • 1961 and 1968 International Design Award of the American Institute of Designers; 
  • 1961 Prince Eugen Medal; and 1967 and 
  • 1968 Citation of Merit from the American Institute of Interior Designers. 
  • In 1959, elected Honorary Royal Designer for Industry, London. Pafuglestolen (Peacock) chair shown 1947 exhibition of the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild and round table and chairs at its 1949 event. 

Work included in 

  • 1948 ‘Deense Kunsthandwerk,’ Gemeente Museum, The Hague; 
  • 1954—57 USA ‘Design in Scandinavia’ travelling exhibition; 
  • 1956—59 Germany “Neue Form aus Danemark’ travelling exhibition; 
  • 1958 ‘Formes Scandinaves’ exhibition, Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs
  • 1959 ‘Dansk Form og Miljo,’ Kiljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm; 
  • 1960—61 USA ‘The Arts of Denmark’ travelling exhibition; 
  • 1962 New York’ Creative Craft in Denmark Today’; 1964 ‘New York World’s Fair’; 
  • 1964—65 ‘Formes Danoises’ in France; 
  • 1968 ‘Two Centuries of Danish Design,’ Victoria and Albert Museum, London; 
  • 1975—77 Eastern Europe ‘Dansk Miljo’ traveling exhibition; 
  • 1977 ‘Danische Formgestaltung,’ Berlin; and 
  • 1978 ‘Danish Design,’ Dublin. 
  • Work was subject of an exhibition in Zurich, 1958; at Georg Jensen, New York, 1959 and 1965; in Stockholm, 1962; 
  • Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen, 1965; and 
  • Rohsska Konstslojdmuseet, Gothenburg, 1967.

Personal style ad design characteristics

Making use of wood

Wegner’s works are almost entirely constructed of wood. He was passionate about wood because he had worked with it since he was a child and was trained as a cabinetmaker. Wegner used traditional construction materials like upholstery, cane, and paper string in addition to wood. His signature style is pushing conventional ingredients to extreme limits and distillations. Wegner, unlike his predecessors, did not concentrate on materials such as fibreglass and plastics (Verner Panton), steel (Poul Kjaerholm), or polyurethane foam (Poul Kjaerholm) (Arne Jacobsen).

While Wegner liked wood, he did create certain chairs that were not practical to make with wood. Because a process for creating the huge ring from wood wasn’t accessible in 1965, Wegner created the Circle Chair (PP130) with a steel ring. However, when it was ultimately put into production in 1985, PP Mobler could construct it totally from wood.

Variations on a theme

Wegner frequently took inspiration from his designs when creating new chairs. Many of Wegner’s chairs are influenced by his earlier work. Henrik Sten Moller, a Danish art critic, titled his 1979 book on Wegner Tema Med Variationer (English: Variations on a Theme) following Wegner’s proclivity to revisit and evolve past pieces.

There are four main variations of the Chinese Chair. The early Chinese Chair series later inspired the Wishbone Chair. The Round Chair can be traced back to the Cow Horn Chair and Swivel Chair.

Traditional craftsmanship is upheld.

Wegner said of his work, “I have always wanted to make unexceptional things of an exceptionally high quality.”

Traditional joinery techniques such as mortise and tenons, finger joints, and sculpted features such as armrests and seat supports are used in many of Wegner’s wooden chairs. Wegner employed a mortise and tenon joint to link the arms at the centre of the backrest in the early models of the Round Chair. Wegner didn’t like how it appeared, so he wrapped the backrest in cane to disguise what he thought was an unattractive design. Wegner later altered the design to employ a zigzag patterned finger joint to link the three components, unhappy with the compromise and the deceiving illusion that the arms and backrest were created from a single piece of wood. The use of a darker wood wedge in the mortise and tenon joint in the Peacock chair emphasises the relationship of the legs to the seat. These elements highlight the steps necessary to put the furniture together and assist the user in understanding the level of craftsmanship involved in his job.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 28). Hans Wegner. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:46, July 29, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hans_Wegner&oldid=1020302061

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Fritz Hansen Danish furniture manufacturing company

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Armchair (1949) designed by Hans J. Wegner

Hans J. Wegner struck a careful balance in the design of this armchair between rational production principles, which designers have explored since the 1920s, and craft values and traditions, on the one hand. He simplified the chair ‘s structure so that the sculpted backrest and arms form one continuous element.

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