Artist in the Spotlight – Hans J. Wegner

This legendary Danish designer has a special place in the history of modern art. From an early age, Wenger found his passion and started on a path toward a glittering career. At the tender age of fifteen years old he created his very first chair. His revolutionary designs have gone on to stand the test of time. Known as the ‘master of the chair’ for his many designs – up to 500 – his work changed the way we view furniture. No longer were they just pieces of wood junked together for putting your butt, rather, they became pieces of art, unique in their craftsmanship, special in their design. Maybe you are sitting on a Hans Wegner Chair right now!? You never know!

If you are into art, it’s more than likely that you’ve bumped into one of Wegner’s pieces in renowned museums all over the world. The Museum of Modern Art in New York and even Die Neue Sammlung in Munich feature his pieces in their collections. Known for his work with, and respect for wood as a material, many of his most hailed pieces were more examples of carpentry brilliance – his time under master cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen coming to the fore in some of his pieces. A strong sense of innovative artistic design and a genuine love for arts and craft are evident in much of Wegner’s work. Even to this day, half-a-century since the peak of his popularity, his work continues to evoke awe and respect from all quarters.

If we’re talking furniture, modern art, chairs, visionary or genius, we’re talking Hans J. Wegner. The Dane has transcended the Scandinavian Art scene to be an internationally respected designer. His work is well respected from continent to continent and he stands on par with the great Scandinavian artists and designers whose reach has made an indelible mark on the world.

Different Décor Styles & Wegner’s Vision

Wegner’s creations serve the task of not only fitting in well with the décor of a minimalist setting but also provide the practical functionality needed in any modern apartment or house. They defy the logic associated with ordinary pieces of furniture. As is the case with most conventional pieces of furniture, they are made for specific parts of a house or apartment, whether it be a dining room, living room or bedroom. This is not the case with many of Wegner’s creations.

As one of the pioneers of the mid-century modern movement, his fidelity to the minimalist décor style and creating furniture which exuded style but also simplicity was evident. The Minimalist style décor is fundamentally imbued with the concept that ‘less is more’. Management of space is important and preventing an air of clutter is the priority. The use of wood and the creation of a natural aura is what Wegner’s creations adapt to best. Even though the mid-century modern era was more than a half-century ago, its sleek shapes have been incorporated into so many different contemporary styles, like Urban Modern and Scandinavian style décor.

Wide spacing between furniture pieces, the use of straight-crisp lines, and comfortable lighting are essential elements of minimalist style décor. The chairs and tables in Wegner’s portfolio are at their best when the surrounding décor agrees with their style. A focus on function is one of the hallmarks of minimalism. Extravagantly colourful paintings or a vase with an outstanding design may not necessarily fit in well within a minimalist style décor. When designing your home in this style, ask the question: Is this addition a necessity? Would it enhance the functionality of the overall space? Such is the manner in which Wegner designed many of his furniture pieces, placing function and simplicity at the forefront.

As opposed to the Bohemian style décor, in which the key is to carefully present a ‘messy’ look, minimalism takes its strength from simplicity, order and neatness. As a style, it creates a feeling of ‘orderly comfort’. An aesthetically peaceful home is the goal when choosing minimalist style décor.

It is said that Wegner’s study into Chinese Emperor’s thrones and the imagery of Danish merchants sitting in them was one of the main creative forces behind the idea for one of his most popular creations –the Wishbone Chair, otherwise known as the Y-Chair. The ingenuity of many of his creations remains unparalleled to this day. The research and time invested in his creations were evident in their quality.

Wegner’s Legacy

For any artist in any field, the measure of your greatness usually is the longevity of your work – does it last after you are gone. With Wegner it does. Whether it’s the Wishbone CHair, the Wegner Shell Chair, the Wing Chair, or the Round Chair – which was featured in the first-ever televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1961 (grabbing some 70 million viewers), it’s embedded into our consciousness. You may not know many of his pieces by their specific names, but you’ve seen them. Hans Wegner’s legacy as a craftsman, designer, and most of all as an artist lives on. One who was completely dedicated to his craft, Hans Wegner’s name and work continues to be associated with innovative and unique designs. He opened a path and built a foundation for designers and artists from Scandinavia to be respected for their work and ideas in all parts of the world.

As a man of humble beginnings, born the son of a shoemaker, he studied his craft from an early age and mastered the art of design. In an era in which the use of wood as a material appeared to be diminishing, Wegner and many like him created a niche for wood furniture by improving the quality and innovating, thus effectively creating a movement. Without question, wood furniture now has a respected place in the world of design in no small part due to Wegner and his contributions; his substantial contribution to the world of art, specifically in the realm of furniture design is worthy of acclaim and ought not to be forgotten.

Find out more about Hans Wegner’s most iconic design, the Wishbone Chair.