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Hans J. Wegner     (1914 - 2007)

The American magazine - Interiors put the "Round" chair on the cover in 1950 and called it 'the world's most beautiful chair,' catapulting Wegner to international fame. It became known as "the Chair". High profile appearances followed like the televised 1961 presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy. Wegner said of the design, "many foreigners have asked me how we made the Danish style. And I've answered that it...was rather a continuous process of purification, and for me of simplification, to cut down to the simplest possible elements of four legs, a seat and combined top rail and arm rest."

Hans Wegner (1914 - 2007) became renowned for blending a variety of natural materials in his classic designs and received many international accolades for his work. He is representative of the combination of excellent craftsmanship and commitment to modern living that made mid-century Danish design internationally popular. Hans J. Wegner is the most innovative and prolific of all Danish furniture designers - today we can count more than 1000 models designed by him. Being of a minimalist school while preserving function, he's made many beautifully and cleverly designed chairs using the finest craftsmanship.

We was a child apprentice to a carpenter, and after serving in the military he went to technical college and onto the School of Arts & Crafts, followed by the Architectural Academy in Copenhagen. Even his earliest pieces like a 1937 design for an armchair with sloping armrests like relaxed wrists, exhibited Wegner's approach of "strippng the old chairs of their outer style and letting them appear in their pure construction" - it was exhibited at the Museum of Decorative Arts.

Wegner worked for some time for Arne Jacobsen, especially on the Aarhus Municipal Hall for which he was in charge of furniture. After some years under Jacobsen, Wegner started his own company.

Wegner remained active until rather late, showing ever new original ideas and concepts. The "Hoop" chair, designed in 1985 was designed when Wegner was 72 years of age, yet it is completely without a role model. He's designed over 500 chairs.

Almost all major honors have been given to Wegner, from the Lunning prize in 1951 and the Grand Prix of the Milan Triennale in the same year to the Prince Eugen medal in Sweden and the Danish Eckersberg medal. In 1959 he was made honorary Royal designer for industry by the Royal Society of Arts in London. His furniture is part of over 20 major design museum collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Die Neue Samlung in Munich.

His own chair designs were made with the modern sculptural idea that they could stand on their own, rather than as parts of a furniture set:

  • China chair (1944-45)
    A chair for conference use and private homes, conventionally made in lacquered cherry or mahogany with a reversible leather covered cushion with buttons. There are many variations of this chair.
  • Peacock chair (1947)
    Inspired by the traditional 'Windsor' chair, it's slatted back-rest fans out to evoke the bird's plume.
  • Wishbone chair (1949)
    Elegant chair with an open, curved back with a centre 'wishbone' strut.
  • Folding chair (1949)
    Made to be hung on the wall.
  • Shell chair (1949)
    Experimented with curving the wood in three dimensions to form the seat.
  • Flag Halyard chair (1950)
    Wegner sent his regards to the early modernists such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Marcel Breur, by demonstrating that he also masters designs in chrome steel pipes. The shape was conceived during a family holiday in Århus where the family spent many days by the beach. Wegner used a lot of the time there experimenting with the shape of the Flag Halyard chair's seat in the sand.
  • Round chair (1950)
  • Papa Bear chair (1951)
    The now iconic Papa Bear chair has oversized back- and arm-rests. It wouldn't look amiss in a stylised 50s inspired cartoon.
  • Valet chair (1953)
    Has elements for hanging up or storing each piece of a man's suit. The backrest is carved to be used as a coat hanger, trousers can be hung on a rail at the edge of the seat, and everything else can be stowed in a storage space underneath the seat.
  • Ox chair (1960)
    Several variations were made - with or without horns - and was a fine example of Wegner's masterful walk between elegance and playfulness. "We must take care that everything doesn't get so dreadfully serious. We must play - but we must play seriously."
  • Pole lamp (1976)
    Created with his daughter Marianne.
  • Hoop chair (1985)
    A large loop bears the halyard woven construction of the seat and back.

He once said that "the chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with."

 

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