Bruno Mathsson – Sweedish Furniture Designer

Posted on 30th August 2011 in Danish Furniture

Bruno Mathsson – Born in January 1907 in the town of Värnamo in southern Sweden, he worked as a modernist architect and Scandinavian modern furniture designer until his death in August 1988. Raised by a carpenter father, he showed an interest from little on in following his father’s footsteps. Eventually he began to work in his father’s gallery with a focus on furniture especially chairs.

As he developed his designs he also developed a technique for constructing wooden chairs that involved running the components under hot water while the wood was bent and then glued securely in place.

Some of his best known works are the “Grasshopper”, 1931, the “Mimat”, 1932, the “Eva” chair, 1935 and the “Swivel” chair in 1939-1940. Fully captured by the functional side of form of modern furniture design, he designed the “Grasshopper” inspired by his visit to the Stockholm Fair in Sweden in 1930. While the Värnamo Hospital who purchased his chairs for their reception area eventually removed all of them because of complaints by visitors that the chair was ugly, continued to perfect his bent-wood technique.

Eventually he was invited to his first one-man show in 1936 at the Röhsska Arts and Craft Museum in Gothenburg where his modern furniture designs met with approval. This led to his success and professional accolades at the World Fair in Paris in 1937. This in turn led him to explore the world of design internationally travelling to the United States in the 1940’s meeting the likes of Charles Eames, Hans Knoll, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd-Wright. The later so influenced him that he designed the Mathsson glass house which interestingly included well insulated triple glazing.

Usually naming his chairs with a female name, he expanded the materials he used for frames and included tubular steel as well. Understanding the elegance in the modern minimal line, he incorporated ergonomic correctness in its function as well. Creativity for him continued well into his older years and at the age of 80 began designing a line of modern computer furniture.
His furniture such as the “Mimat” is a simple wood frame with a woven seat. The “Stories” table was light and rested on wheels which allowed for easy mobility and the “Pernilla” lounge chair was inviting support by bentwood legs with curvilinear arms. The “Table Kuggen Mi” made from either a variety of woods or a white lacquer, has an almost puzzle piece outline providing for an individualized projection from the main part of the table for each person who might sit there. Imaginative and practical, it summarizes well his design philosophy.

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