Hans J. Wegner
Hans J. Wegner is considered one of the most creative and productive Danish furniture designers. Also named 'The Master of the Chair', he drew up to 500 chairs in his career, such as the iconic Wishbone chair, Peacock chair, Papa bear chair among others.
Hans J. Wegner
Born: 1914 in Tønder. Died: 2007 in Gentofte
"I feel more like a craftsman than an architect. I think more like a craftsman, and if I run into some doubts, I say, 'What would you do if you had the materials in front of you?' That's also why I go to the workshop if I'm in doubt." — Hans J. Wegner
Hans J. Wegner is considered one of the most creative and productive Danish furniture designers from the golden age of Danish furniture. Nicknamed the Master of the Chair, he designed nearly 500 chairs in his career, including Y-stolen ("The Y Chair", 1949), Påfuglestolen ("The Peacock Chair", 1947), Bamsestolen ("The Papa Bear Chair", 1951), Den Runde Stol ("The Round Chair", 1949), and many others.
When Wegner was only 14, he began as an apprentice under a master carpenter by the name of Stahlberg in his home city of Tønder, where he learned the trade from scratch. He finished his apprenticeship at age 17, but continued working with Stahlberg until leaving for compulsory military service in Copenhagen. Wegner dreamt of becoming a foreman at a large workshop, but after arriving in Copenhagen and seeing an exhibition from the Guild of Carpenters, he was inspired by the great master craftsmen of the time, such as Johannes Hansen, Rudolf Rasmussen, A. J. Iversen, Jacob Kjær and Niels Vodder. Could carpenters really make such beautiful furniture?
During a Technological Institute course, he was often sent to the Museum of Art and Design to measure furniture. There, he met students from the School of Arts and Crafts, discovering that if he was really to learn anything about furniture, it would be there. At the School of Arts and Crafts, he became an architect at the age of 24, in 1938.
As early as 1937, Wegner had attracted attention after participating in the yearly exhibition held by the Guild of Carpenters, winning prizes for a tea set, silverware, and a chandelier. The year after he finished school, he received an offer from architect Erik Møller to come to Aarhus, where he would assist Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen in creating furniture and designing other aspects of the Aarhus Town Hall. Wegner gratefully accepted the offer, but the town hall project was delayed by the Municipality of Aarhus's insistence on a tower for the town hall, which was not part of the original design. For this reason, Wegner instead designed furniture under Erik Møller for the Nyborg Public Library
During the war, Hans J. Wegner worked with his former classmate, Børge Mogensen, at FDB Furniture, where he helped to create FDB's accessible quality furniture, which was a great success.
In 1949, he established his own studio, and had such designers as Poul Kjærholm as students. Unlike many of his colleagues, Wegner focused mainly on furniture, especially chairs. The studio and the workshops he collaborated with constantly tested how far craftsmanship could be stretched. The Peacock Chair is a good example of this.
In 1941, Hans J. Wegner began his partnership with master carpenter Johannes Hansen, which led to the development of many of Wegner's best-known furniture pieces. This collaboration was key to Wegner's furniture production, placing his name among the leaders in Danish furniture. At the 1949 exposition held by the Guild of Carpenters, Wegner presented what might be his single best-known chair, The Round Chair, which kicked off the Danish modern movement. The chair made its international breakthrough during the American presidential election of 1960, where candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon sat in The Round Chair during the world’s first televised electoral debate. The chair was subsequently renamed to just The Chair.
Exports of Wegner's furniture skyrocketed through the 1950s and 1960s, and approximately half of the furniture pieces he presented at the Guild of Carpenters exposition went into production. Wegner stopped designing furniture in 1993, instead becoming an advisor to his daughter, architect Marianne Wegner, who was hired by the studio in 1973 to be responsible for furniture. Wegner designed his final chair in 1990 and died in 2007, leaving behind more than 3500 drawings and sketches.
Wegner collaborated with a number of furniture manufacturers, including master craftsman Andreas Tuck, AP Stolen, Carl Hansen & Son, Getama, Ry Møbler, Fritz Hansen, PP Furniture, Erik Jørgensen, Plan Møbler, and others.
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