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About Finn Juhl

Finn Juhl in Short

Initially, Finn Juhl wanted to become an art historian. Since his early years, he had been interested in fine arts. However, his father wouldn't allow a career in the arts. Instead, Finn Juhl enrolled at the Department of Architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen. Finn Juhl began his studies in the 1930s, which was an important period in furniture design, when modern design started to emerge. While he was still a student, Finn Juhl started working with the prominent Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen in 1934. At his studio, he worked on major projects such as the Danish Broadcasting House and Copenhagen Airport. Finn Juhl was kept so busy, that he never finished his studies. Despite this, he received the honor of becoming a member of the Academic Architect Society in 1942, and later in life, he became a visiting professor at the Institute of Design in Chicago. At the time when he had made himself a name as a furniture designer, he would always speak of himself as being a self-taught.

One of the international highlights of Finn Juhl’s career was designing the complete interior of the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN headquarters in New York between 1951 and 52.

 

About Finn Juhl

Designing for the Living Body

Like other modernist pioneers, Finn Juhl started from scratch without role models or inherited restrictions. He designed by measuring his own body and analyzing how the individual components of the chair should carry the human body. But contrary to his modernist contemporaries, with their streamlined, scaffolding-like structures, Finn Juhl aimed at a more organic and natural form. The potential strength of the material was utilised to the maximum just like in nature’s own constructions. As Finn Juhl translated his ideas into daring, supple joinery where each element of the design flowed seamlessly into each other, he also put enormous demands on the joiners who were to produce the design.

Rather than thinking in terms of practical construction, Finn Juhl had the mind-set of a sculptor, when he shaped a piece of furniture. In the 1940s and 1950s, this way of working had never been seen before. His ambition was to design furniture with movement and life. Finn Juhl took pride in making both the structurally supportive elements of the furniture and the seated person look as though they are floating. In some of his chairs, the backrest and the seat are almost invisibly joined, as if they were clouds floating through the room.

In creating his furniture, Finn Juhl worked with two elements: The carrying element, and the carried. He eventually became known for his special ability to separate the bearing parts from the borne. This is one of many examples of how he broke free from conventional working methods and found his inspiration in art.

 

 

“Art has always been my main source of inspiration. I am fascinated by shapes which defy gravity and create visual lightness.” - Finn Juhl
About Finn Juhl

Upholstery and Wood Work

During his first years at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition Finn Juhl primarily worked with fully upholstered furniture. If you know about Finn Juhl’s sculptural wooden furniture, it may seem odd that he primarily started out working with fully upholstered furniture. Finn Juhl later said that this was due to the fact that he did not know much about furniture construction nor joinery. The upholstered furniture allowed Finn Juhl to focus entirely on the sculptural, organic shapes of his furniture, which became a trademark of his. He referred to himself as self-taught within the field of furniture design, as his formal education was within the field of architecture. With fully upholstered furniture he would ‘only’ have to focus on the exterior shape and let master joiner Niels Vodder work on the wooden skeleton.

In contrast to many of his peers, Finn Juhl felt that modern furniture had to refer to the contemporary art of the time. The Pelican Chair is thus a perfect example of how Finn Juhl integrated the ideals of functionalism with free art.

A few years after Finn Juhl’s debut at the Cabinetmaker’s Guild Exhibition he became increasingly interested in applying wood as the dominant shaping material, rather than ‘hiding’ it under a cover of upholstery. When he designed the 45 Chair it had become his objective to create a chair that was almost self-explanatory in its construction. This way, he became one of the first to clearly disconnect the upholstered areas from the wooden frame. The result was an elegant and tantalizing expression that came to characterize Finn Juhl.