We all have our gifts and Hans Wegner’s was designing chairs. Credited with over five hundred chairs over the span of his career, he designed with the intent to reveal, to strip down furniture to its essence, its core. With this clarity of line and purpose in mind, he created both serious and more light hearted pieces such as the Ox Chair in 1960 that was available with horns (or without).
Born in 1914 and living until 2007, he was part of the mid-century Danish designers who created modern design for everyday living. Trained first as a cabinet maker, this provided for his expert and experimental use of wood in his contemporary furniture designs. Like many of his time, he attended the Danish School of Arts and Crafts and then continued on to the Architectural Academy in Copenhagen.
Collaborating with both cabinet makers and architects, he eventually began working with Arne Jacobsen who was a successful Danish architect who, with Erik Moller designed the Arhus City Hall. Wegner was to design the furniture for the Aarhus Municipal Hall inside the city hall. Eventually Wegner opened his own contemporary furniture company. Working with architect Borge Mogensen, he designed furniture for FDB, a chain of Danish grocery stores.
Throughout his career, he designed interesting modern furniture chairs that carried equally interesting names such as the Peacock Chair in 1947, the Hoop Chair in 1965 and the Wishbone Chair in 1949. Most of his designs were produced by PP Mobler and Carl Hansen & Son.
Taking a traditional design such as the Windsor chair, it was reinvented in the Peacock Chair that like its name exhibited a slatted back that fanned out similar to that of a peacock’s plume. Understanding that form and function are always one in regards to modern furniture, the Valet Chair, 1953, was designed to accommodate hanging a man’s suit on. With a storage space under the seat to storage miscellaneous items, the back served as a coat hanger and a rail conveniently placed next to the seat could hold a pair of pants.
The wishbone Chair also referred to as the Y Chair, 1949, made of hardwood and natural cord caning is so named because of the shape of the backrest. Simple in line, this contemporary furniture piece is devoid of detailing that would detract from its rounded and inviting form which probably accounts for its popularity. With the Papa bear chair, 1951 and the unique Shell Chair, 1963, with a wonderfully smooth arched backrest, modern furniture had found a great designer.