Finn Juhl 1912 – 1989

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Finn Juhl quickly became internationally known and was in his age so internationalyy well-known that we Danes did not need to know him! Wood protestants were reluctant to recognize Finn Juhls provocative extravagance in design, where he adapted the wood’s effects and its organic, sculptural expression into a design which was both foreign and new.

Finn Juhl’s furniture was a type of protest against the perpetually valid systematical view that the Kaare Klint school took. Finn Juhl was more spiritual in his expression, which often disturbed collegues at home, even though he did not set aside the functional needs for that reason. His starting point was greatly influenced by modern sculptural design of the time. Works by Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti and other progressive sculpters from that era should not be ignored.

Finn Juhl’s many interior design assignments were often followed by an Erik Thommesen sculpture in wood, which rythmic shape strangely completed the picture. He was also inspired by the world’s earliest cultural productions, which he strongly expressed in Politiken newspaper in 1976, in an article entitled “An Egyptian Family”, where he describes his first meeting with an Egyptian princess at the Glyptotek Museum in Copenhagen. He writes “in the Louvres’ collection, for the first time, I stood in front of an Egyptian chair with its characteristic side-view, where a triangle is formed by the vertical back leg and the frame that supports the inclined back, and the horizontal apron between the front legs and back legs. A solid and simple construction, which I used on a dining chair. I must honestly admit to stealing the construction, just as I stole the right angle and the circle”.

His artistic starting point involved a rich view of furniture design, and he did not consider a chair simply a product in a room – “it is a design and a room in itself”, he wrote in 1952.

He especially cultivated the upholstered element in his chairs and sofas in a distinct sculptural design – a theme where he consequently seperated the bearing construction from the upholstered sections. A principle that can be seen in his tables, where he detached the tabletop from the underframe.

Finn Juhl felt that there were two choices to make: either to continue – consciously or subconsciously – to misunderstand the concepts of the past, and copy and daydream, or understand the past’s greatness and concepts and create something that is just as right for our era’s conditions, like the theatre in Eqidaurus was in its time.

From the beginning in 1938, Finn Juhl’s work was always among the most dominating items at the Carpentry Guild’s exhibitions; his love of teak and his ability to exploit its characteristics created the concept “Danish Modern”, a furniture style to which his name will always be inextricably tied. It naturally meant that teak became fashionable, not least in the shape of Finn Juhl imitations. Finn Juhl produced an entire series of furniture for Niels Vodder, who claimed no less than 22 of the Carpentry Guild’s exhibits, and they were always among the most dominating items. He was also the first Danish furniture designer who as early as 1951, started production in the USA and later in 1953, a large Danish factory production with France & Son.

Graduated, 1930.
Diploma from the Academy of Fine Arts Architect School, 1934.
Employed by architect Wilhelm Lauritzen, 1934-45.
Début with furniture at the Carpentry Guild’s exhibitions, 1937.
Designed furniture for master carpenter Niels Vodder, 1937-59.
Admitted to the Academic Architect Association, 1940.
Designed his own house at Kratvænget, 1942.
Independent drawing office from 1945.
Senior teacher at the School for Interior Decoration, 1945-55.
Guest professor at the Institute of Design in Chicago, 1965.

C.F. Hansen’s incentive prize, 1943.
Echersberg medal, 1947.
A.I.D. prize for design, Chicago, 1964.
Received a lifetime grant from the Ministry of Finance’s budget, 1971.
Appointed as Honorary Royal Designer for Industry in London, 1978.
Knight of the Dannebrog, 1984.

Has also written the book, “Hjemmets Indretning” (Interior Design for the Home) in 1954, and written a series of articles about furniture and applied art from 1944-76.

Has also produced furniture for:
Master carpenter Niels Vodder, 1937-59.
Baker Furniture Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1951-55.
Bovirke, Copenhagen, 1952-64.
France & Daverkosen, Ørholm, and France & Søn, Hillerød, 1953-69.

Has produced a considerable amount of interior designs for:
Bing & Grøndahl’s shop on Amager Square, 1946.
The Trust Territory’s floor at the UN’s head office in New York, 1951.
Georg Jensen’s shop on Fifth Avenue in New York in 1952, Toronto in 1956 and London in 1957.
Rooms in the Nordenfjeldske Museum of Decorative Arts, Trondheim, 1952.
Trienalen in Milano, 1954, 1957.
SAS air terminals in Europe and Asia, 1956-61.
DC8 plane for SAS, 1957.
Danish Embassy i Washington D.C., 1960
Restaurant for Hotel Richmond, 1965.

 

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