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Hans J. Wegner

Denmark (1914–2007)

If Danish modernism is best known and beloved for the use of tradi­tional tech­niques to empha­size mate­ri­al­ity — grace­ful curves honor­ing the grain of fine walnut, for example — that’s thanks in large part to Hans J. Wegner. Born in south­ern Denmark, at 14 Wegner began an appren­tice­ship with Danish master cabi­net­maker H. F. Stahlberg, where he honed a preter­nat­ural talent and learned skills he’d bring to bear through­out a career lasting some eighty years and full of design masterpieces.

While study­ing at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copen­hagen, Wegner worked for Arne Jacob­sen and Erik Møller on a range of furni­ture for the Aarhus City Hall. Four years after grad­u­a­tion, he had show­cased a chair at the Copen­hagen Museum of Art and Indus­try, and opened his own firm. Sculp­tural, surpris­ingly comfort­able seating became Wegner’s trade­mark: for Fritz Hansen, the float­ing Chinese chairs; for Carl Hansen & Sons, he designed the instant classic Wish­bone, Shell, and Elbow chairs; for PP Møbler, the cozy Papa Bear, iconic Round, and buoyant Circle chairs; and count­less others, most still in production.

Wegner retired in 1993 and died four­teen years later, but his work lives on in its ubiq­uity across resi­den­tial, hospi­tal­ity, and corpo­rate design — not to mention the Museum Sønderjylland’s perma­nent exhi­bi­tion of the three dozen chairs he felt were his very best in a water tour in his home­town of Tønder.

Designs by Hans J. Wegner (24)