Above: A collection of Finn Juhl-designed pieces including the NV-45 Chair manufactured by Niels Vodder in 1945. Photo: themodernwarehouse.com
One cannot create happiness with beautiful objects, but one can spoil quite a lot of happiness with bad ones.
It is a bit unusual to think that one of the greatest Danish designers didn’t initially want to be a designer. In his youth Finn Juhl spent a great deal of his time at the National Art Gallery of Denmark and aspired to be an art historian. However, his rather authoritarian father (Juhl’s mother died shortly after he was born) considered these ambitions silly and convinced him to pursue architecture instead. Today Juhl is considered one of the leading figures of Scandinavian Modern and is accredited as being the designer who introduced Danish Modern design to America.
Born in 1912, Juhl spent much of his youth at the National Art Gallery of Denmark. So much was his love for art and art history that he convinced the library of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek to allow to borrow art history books well before he was of age. But Juhl’s father disapproved these aspirations and convinced him instead to pursue a career in architecture and in 1930 he entered the Architecture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
After graduating, Juhl spent a decade working at the architectural firmof Vilhelm Lauritzen’s but in 1945 he left to set up his own design practice, specializing in interior and furniture design. And while architecture paid the bills Juhl’s true passion was in furniture design. Several years earlier, in 1937, Juhl began a collaboration with cabinetmaker Niels Vodder, a partnership which would continue until 1959. There is no doubt that this partnership would result in some of Juhl’s finest (and in some cases rarest) works.
Juhl’s designs were exhibited at the Guild Exhibitions, although not always to a warm reception as many felt his designs strayed too far from true Nordic Classicism, and he was part of a group of young designers that were letting go of traditional styles and focusing instead on creating modern furniture with a new design vocabulary which fitted the new trends in architecture.
In 1948 Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., leader of the Department for Industrial Design at Merchandise Mart in New York, was touring Scandinavia and discovered Juhl’s work. On Kaufmann’s invitation Juhl participated in the Good Design exhibition in Chicago in 1951, a show that also showcased the works of Ray and Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. From here on Juhls designs would become less craftsman made in small numbers and would enter into more mass production, but still maintaining his high craft standards. During the 1950’s Juhl – astonishingly – won a total of 5 gold medals at the prestigious Milan Triennale further entrenching his international reputation.
Juhl, whose first passion was art, ended up designing some of the most beautiful pieces of Danish Modern ever produced. They say great art is born from sorrow and perhaps the same can be said of great design. In the delicate lines, the curvaceous forms, and the sense of fruition in Juhl’s works we see the manifestations of a man pouring his lost love into his work. In the end, his pieces are art.
Just some of the classic Danish Modern designs of Finn Juhl. Click on image for full view3005 false true true false true true false auto false ease-in-out 300 auto false 0 true true