Hans Wegner (1914-2007)
Hans Wegner ranks with designers Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Poul Kjærholm and Verner Panton as a master of 20th-century Danish Modernism.
Together they seized the design world's attention in the 1950s and 1960s by joining the cabinetmaker-guild traditions of craftsmanship, quality and comfort with modernist principles of simplicity and graphic beauty. Their sculptural and organic works, often made in warm blond wood, softened the metallic shine and sharp edges of the International style while forgoing none of its cleanliness. Their work, both elegant and comfortable, made “Danish Modern” all the rage among cosmopolitan Americans.
Wegner’s chairs – his most celebrated work - granted aesthetes worldwide a comfortable place to sit.
Hans Jorgen Wegner learned woodworking as a boy, the son of a cobbler, in southern Denmark. He was studying design in Copenhagen in 1938 when he was hired by Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen to design furniture for a town hall they were creating. He worked for Møller and Jacobsen through the early 1940s, then established his own furniture studio.
The 1947 debut of the Peacock Chair, a modern gloss on the Windsor chair, was a turning point in his career. From then on his work was in great demand. For years he produced a new chair for the Cabinet-makers Guild show each spring. Wegner designed over 200 chairs in all, including the Folding Chair, the Flag Halyard Chair and the Valet Chair. His two best-known designs are the Wishbone (Y-back) chair, suggested by a Chinese chair and the Round Chair.
Until the 1960s, he typically collaborated with Johannes Hansen to realize his designs. He also experimented with laminates, as in the Three-Legged Shell Chair (1963), or steel and ox hide as in the Ox-Chair (1960) for Erik Jørgensen.
By the late 1960s, the rage for Danish Modern had cooled in the United States. But Wegner kept working, creating new designs for another Danish company, P P Mobler. He retired in the early 1990s, when his daughter Marianne, an architect, took over his studio.
While he is best known for his chairs, Wegner has also created memorable cabinetry, desks, tables, beds and lighting.