Hans Jørgen Wegner
, (April 2
- January 26
), was one of the most innovative and prolific of all Danish furniture designers that made mid-century Danish design internationally popular. His work belongs to a minimalist
school, but preserves function. He is probably best known for his many chairs of genuine craftmanship.
Born to a cobbler
, he got an early start working as a child apprentice to a carpenter
. After serving in the military he went to technical college and then to the School of Arts and crafts
and the Architectural Academy in Copenhagen
. Even his earliest objects, like an armchair with sloping armrests like relaxed wrists (a 1937 design for an exhibit at the Museum of Decorative Arts), exhibited Wegner's approach of "stripping the old chairs of their outer style and letting them appear in their pure construction."
Wegner worked for some time for Arne Jacobsen
, another famous Danish designer. Wegner was in charge of the furniture in the Aarhus Municipal Hall, which Jacobsen designed. After some years under Jacobsen, Wegner started his own company. Along with fellow architect, he drew furniture for FDB (a Danish chain of grocery stores), spearheaded by Erik Kold - who founded an organization of Danish furniture makers that launched Danish design abroad.
In his later years Wegner became more attached to PP Møbler (which produces most of his designs today) for whom many of his later designs were made. He remained active throughout his life, continually showing new original ideas and concepts. The Hoop Chair, originally designed in 1965 with a steel tube base and finally put into production made entirely in wood in 1985 (for PP Møbler) is completely without precedent. Wegner has designed furniture for PP Møbler, Johannes Hansen, Carl Handen & Son, Fritz Hansen, Getama, Fredericia Stolefabrik and others. He designed over 500 chairs and retired from public life only in the last decade of his life.
Wegner received almost all major honors given to designers, 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 all major design museum collections in the world: The Museum of Modern Art
in N.Y., Die Neue Samlung in Munich
and twenty other Museums.
Wegner's chair designs were manufactured primarily by PP Møbler and Carl Hansen & Søn, and were made with the modern, sculptural idea that they could stand on their own, rather than as parts of a furniture set. The "Peacock" chair from 1947, with a slatted back rest fanning out to evoke the bird's plume, was inspired by the traditional "Windsor" chair. His 1949 folding chair was made to be hung on the wall, and his "Shell" chair from the same year experimented with curving the wood in three dimensions to form the seat. The multi-purpose "Valet" chair, designed in 1953, had elements for hanging up or storing each piece of a man's suit. The backrest is carved to be used as a coat hanger, pants 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. In 1960 he came out with several variations on the "Ox" chair which came with or without horns, and was a fine example of the line Wegner could masterfully walk between elegance and playfulness. "We must take care," he once said, "that everything doesn't get so dreadfully serious. We must play--but we must play seriously." In more recent years he has continued to design chairs and has also worked with lighting, such as the "Pole" lamp created in 1976 with his daughter Marianne. Wegner has stated that, "the chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with."
- Peacock Chair (1947)
- Wishbone Chair (Y Chair) (1949)
- Flag Halyard Chair (1950)
- The Chair (1949)
- Circle Chair (Hoop Chair) (1965- 1986)
- Papa Bear Chair (1951)
- Chinese Chair, different variations (1944-1945)
- The Ox Chair (1960)
- The Wing Chair (1960)
- The Shell Chair (1963)
- The Valet Chair (1943)
"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."
"The chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with."
"A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles."