Finn Juhl Denmark, 1912-1989
Finn Juhlis considered one of the most innovative furniture designers of the twentieth century.
Having trained as an architect, Finn Juhl never completed his studies at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen. His career as a furniture maker began in the 1930s. Unlike his fellow designers who were trained cabinetmakers, he was proud of being a self-taught furniture maker. From the very beginning, his furniture stood in stark contrast to the rational, traditional and geometric designs of leading furniture professor Kaare Klint and his students. Juhl did not like the idea of simply perpetuating tradition, but wanted to draw inspiration from other sources, particularly from contemporary art.
In 1945 he became a senior instructor at Copenhagen’s Interior Design School, thereby occupying a highly influential position in the Danish design movement.
His profound grasp of contemporary art in the mid century proved to be a key source of influence for his design. His furniture not only resembled sculptures by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miró and Erik Thommesen, but was often displayed alongside works by these artists.
Juhl’s furniture triggers admiration because it possesses a light, sculptural elegance that transcends its own time. With his organic and artistically inspired shapes, Juhl was a key exponent of the organic variant of international modernism. His early furniture sculptures look like giant mammals.
His attention to detail and exceptional cabinetmaking skills led him to work throughout his career with Niels Vodder, one of the most skilful cabinetmakers of his time.
In the 1950s Juhl was the architect behind several important travelling exhibitions about Danish design in the US. He also handled important interior-design assignments abroad, including, in 1961, the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN Headquarters in New York.
To transfer to Chieftain text :
In his main accomplishment, the ‘Chieftain Chair’ from 1949, the organic, thinly padded points of contact, the seat and armrest, appear to be floating. The chair featured organic details reminiscent of tools by indigenous peoples, and it was groundbreaking for Finn Juhl. Along with Hans J. Wegner’s contemporary furniture, especially, it was crucial for the breakthrough of Danish design in the US in particular.