Finn Juhl (1912 – 1989) influential Danish Designer

Finn Juhl exhibition interior at the National Museum
Finn Juhl exhibition interior at the National Museum

Finn Juhl was one of the most influential Danish designers of the 20th century and closely associated with the Danish Modern concept. He was the first Danish furniture designer to be recognised internationally. Juhl was widely known for his furniture design and product design, with a lesser but excellent reputation for architecture and interior design.

Education

From 1930 to 1934, he studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where he worked for some years in the architectural practice of Vilhelm Lauritzens.

Biography

He was appointed to the staff of the Frederiksberg School of Interior Design in 1944. He opened his design consultancy in Copenhagen in 1945. At this time, he emerged as a noteworthy furniture designer, respected for his rejection of Kaare Klint’s designs’ practical anonymity in favour of a more individual artistic approach.

Seating Designs

In the late 1930s Juhl began design furniture primarily for his personal use. In producing a range of very sculptural furniture pieces, including the upholstered, organic, but light in appearance, Chieftain armchair of 1949, he worked closely with the cabinetmaker Niels Vodder.

Minimalist Pelican chairs by Danish designer Finn Juhl in building by Zaha Hadid, Ordrupgaard Art Design Museum Denmark. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Minimalist Pelican chairs by Danish designer Finn Juhl in building by Zaha Hadid, Ordrupgaard Art Design Museum Denmark. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

NV-45 Chair

The NV-45, or Model 45, was one of his most beautiful furniture pieces. In 1945, he designed the chair by freeing the frame’s seat and back, which broke with the traditional chair design idea. Upholstered in leather (or fabric), the chair has lovely curved armrests and sloping back legs made of high-quality teak that show Juhl’s attention to detail. Juhl developed numerous constructional techniques for teak use, which led to widespread use in Danish furniture.

Vintage NV-45 chair by Finn Juhl
Vintage NV-45 chair by Finn Juhl

He developed several series of seating designs during this and the next decade, using metal frames and the more dominant wood material. Juhl also produced a wide variety of products for Grand Rapids’ Baker Furniture in the United States (1949–51) and designed wooden furniture for mass production for the Danish company France & Son in the late 1950s.

Finn Juhl 1945 Chieftain Armchair
Finn Juhl 1945 Chieftain Armchair distinctive design influenced by African shields

The Trusteeship Council Room at the United Nations Headquarters (1951) and a room at the Kunstindustrimuseum were among his best-known interior designs (1952). However, Juhl’s innovations were not limited to furniture and interiors, as he was also commissioned to design IBM typewriters, General Electric refrigerators, Bing & Grøndahl ceramics, and Georg Jensen glassware. He received several design awards, including five Milan Triennali Gold Medals in 1954 and 1957, and the 1964 AID (American Institute of Design) Competition.

This picture shows the design and construction of Finn Juhl chair.This picture shows the design and construction of Finn Juhl chair. 06 Feb 1952, Wed Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com

Style

Juhl provided a softer touch to the lines of wooden modernist chairs, favouring organic designs that pushed the material to its limits. Unlike many other proponents of the Modern Danish style, who employed oak in their designs, he prefered teak and other dark woods.

He was influenced by abstract artist Jean Arp, as evidenced by his early Pelican chair, which remained a recurring subject throughout his career. Juhl displayed the Chieftain chair with photographs of weaponry from anthropological investigations, which was also influenced by tribal art.

The floating back and seat, which is seen in most of his chair designs and is frequently upholstered in contrast to the hardwood of the bearing parts, was one of his trademarks. In the chairs between 1945 and 1948, the entire back and seat, which appear to float on their supports, begin to emerge.

Selected Works

Sources

Englund, M., Schmidt, C., & Wood, A. (2017). Scandinavian modern. Ryland Peters & Small. https://amzn.to/3uxmTjz

Fiell, C., & Fiell, P. (2018). Design of the 20th century. Taschen GmbH. https://amzn.to/3Rl2VlY

Sibthorp, F. (2011). Collectables: 20th-century classics. New Holland. https://amzn.to/3bYWcgY

Woodham, J. Juhl, Finn. In A Dictionary of Modern Design. : Oxford University Press. https://amzn.to/3yPylcY

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