The Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner (1914-2007) created more than 500 different chairs. Formed principally from wood, his creations are known for their skilled balance between innovation and being incredibly practical, with some models suited to production on a large scale to disseminate their impact to the widest audience.
The designer’s most iconic pieces include the Wishbone chair, named after its Y-shaped back, and the Valet chair, above, which was designed for carefully hanging each piece of a man’s suit, with the hinged seat lifting to hold trousers overnight and revealing a box in which to place accoutrements. Its unusual shape, Morrison explains, encapsulates Wegner’s desire to inject an element of fun into functional design.
Also offered in London is Wegner’s Cowhorn chair, one of the designer’s most sought after designs.
This year marks the centenary of MMF, the influential studio of Swedish textile designer Märta Måås-Fjetterström (1873-1941), which still operates today. Over her career, Märta created some 700 patterns for rugs and fabrics, and championed emerging female talent by employing young textile graduates and training local women. Examples from the MMF studio are now held in museums including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Stockholm.
‘M?rta was a pioneer and I think what’s appealing about her work is that there’s a real honesty to it,’ says Morrison. ‘Each piece is made entirely by hand. It takes hours and hours to produce. For anyone interested in artisanal production, knowing where an artwork comes from and how it is made, the works of M?rta and MMF tick all the boxes.’
Following Märta’s death in 1941, MMF’s work continued under her disciples, Barbro Nilsson, Ann-Mari Forsberg and Marianne Richter. M?rta’s creations are embroidered with ‘MMF’ whereas designs made posthumously are signed ‘AB MMF’ to signify when the firm became listed.
Kaare Klint (1888-1954) is often referred to as ‘the father of modern Danish design’. As a founder and teacher at the Department of Furniture Design in the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Klint influenced some of the greatest architects and designers in the 1940s, including Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjaerholm and Hans Wegner.
Klint’s designs are known for being simple, lightweight and highly functional. These themes are embodied in one of his earliest and best-known works, the Faaborg chair, presented at the inauguration of the Faaborg Museum in 1915, and intended to be portable enough for visitors to place before artworks they wished to contemplate.
For our specialist, the quality of Klint’s furniture is ‘second to none. He was obsessed with producing works of the highest standards using the best timbers’. But there is also a familiarity to Klint’s design. ‘Even when his works were new,’ says Morrison, ‘there was often a nod towards 18th-century furniture design and an element of tradition that buyers found comforting.’
Danish designer Finn Juhl (1912-1989) was ‘a progressive’, Morrison states. ‘He rejected everything that older designers such as Kaare Klint stood for. Juhl wasn’t a part of the establishment. He pushed furniture design in new ways with his shapes and structures.’
Juhl was entirely self-taught. He studied architecture in the 1930s, and started dabbling in furniture design almost a decade later, creating pieces for his personal use. His lack of training freed him from tradition and allowed him be more innovative with his creations.
Sign up today
Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week
Juhl is best known for his chairs with a floating back and seat — the upholstered parts removed from the structure. This can be seen most clearly in his Chieftain chair from 1949, considered his most famous piece. He also had a utilitarian focus, designing, for example, a bench that could also serve as a low table.
Paavo Tynell (1890-1973) was one of the pioneers of electrical lighting design in Finland in the early 20th century. This earned him the sobriquet, ‘the man who illuminated Finland’.
Tynell trained as a tinsmith, then later worked as a blacksmith and a jewellery designer. He brought these experiences to his lighting, creating delicate, ornamental pieces in different metals. He was inspired by nature, with many of his works taking the shapes of leaves, shells and snowflakes.
In the 1930s and ’40s Tynell collaborated with his compatriot Alvar Aalto, producing fixtures for all of the architect’s major projects. According to Morrison, the ‘Snowflake’ series is Tynell’s most sought-after, and represents ‘the zenith of his designs’.