Put simply, Finn Juhl was the black sheep, the iconoclast, the stirrer among modern Scandinavian masters.
He started his career in the 1930s, when Kaare Klint’s teachings ruled, and immediately set himself apart by designing plush furniture, while his contemporaries and compatriots were all about bare and functional constructions, paying homage to the international modernist movement.
Rather than following the mainstream trend, he sought his personal way to interior and furniture design by looking at tribal art and modern sculpture, just two of his many passions. Form and function remained at the core of his design as he studied how each component of a chair should carry the human body and, over the years, he became famous for his special ability to design objects in which the carried and carrying elements look separate, giving the impression that the sitting person was floating delicately.
In terms of shape and colours, Finn Juhl was the most daring and sculptural of the Scandinavian vague, his vision and taste gaining the attention of US modern art scene and the booming Danish furniture market. He was very controversial, as any artist should be, and was accused of being too hyped to be taken seriously as a designer. Pure envy my friends! Just take a look at this picture of him. Don’t you see how he looks perfectly at ease in one of those Donald Draper parties? The guy you would approach for a chat and a cocktail (and to ask him about his spectacular frames, by the way).
His sensorial, organic shapes were just as far from the restrained aesthetic of the majority as his personal “charme” was from the austere personality of his fellow Scandinavian designers. I respect and love all of them, but Finn Juhl has my unconditional affection.
Coming to today: his designs are exclusively produced by the Danish company Onecollection, a singular set-up among established makers, which I will certainly come back to in another post.
Like many other modern designers, Finn Juhl’s popularity and the commercial appeal of his furniture have seen both dark and bright days. Today the sky’s the limit, as we celebrate the restoration and re-opening of the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber he designed and furnished back in 1950, or as we scout for news about the stellar prices of his pieces at auction.