The Origins of Danish Furniture Design
Danish design entered its golden age in the late 1940s with the development of organic modernism, a design paradigm that still defines what most people know of as ‘Danish Design.’
The years after World War II gave rise to a renewed sense of liberation and hope that precipitated a different design direction. Designers like Hans J Wegner, Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen started to unbridle themselves from the dogmatic functionalism of the interwar years to explore freer and more expressive shapes.
The new open-plan arrangements in middle-class modern homes facilitated seamless transitions between exterior and interior worlds and provided areas in which furniture could boldly stand alone in a free, open space.
Wild botanical forms from the 1920s reappeared in design, re-interpreted through a vision informed both by Klint’s functionalist principles as well as the abstract shapes appearing in paintings and sculptures from the period.
Functional and handcrafted, sculptural and biomorphic, Danish mid-century furniture straddled the past and present in its simultaneous evocation of tradition and innovation.
While ‘organic modernism’ was not unique to Denmark and aligned with influences from the United States of America, Danish furniture in particular became globally renowned during this period. World War II had instilled a suspicion of ‘inhuman’ industrialization, to which the natural materials and renowned craftsmanship of Danish furniture offered a personable alternative.
American journalists travelling to Denmark in 1949 was furniture designs by Wegner and Juhl at the Cabinetmakers Guild Exhibition. In 1950 the Danish government instigated an extensive marketing campaign in which exhibitions of Scandinavian furniture, curated by Juhl, travelled to museums and galleries across North America. Designs by Wegner, Juhl and Jacobsen soon started to appear in American films, American stores, and in magazines.
Danish design was elevated on the world stage as a symbol of modernity, democracy and ideal domesticity.