Hans J. Wegner
One of the most prolific Danish talents of his time, Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) designed roughly 500 chairs, many of which have become classics that are still in production today. Wegner is part of the “Golden Age’ of modern Danish design, known for his fascination with wood and for infusing functional designs with a poetic, playful edge. His work played a vital role in making Danish Modernism popular on an international scale.
For Wegner, a chair isn’t just a piece of furniture but a work of art made to support the human form. His style is often described as Organic Functionality, uniting softer forms with a focus on functionality. At the same time, Wegner incorporated the natural grain and other characteristics of wood to create surprising, sculptural lines. Given a chair’s close contact with the human body, he was adept at ensuring the ergonomics of comfort.
“ A chair should have no back side. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles. ”
Hans J. Wegner
Established his own design firm in 1943
Wegner showed an affinity for wood as a child, which later influenced his work as a furniture maker and designer. He began his career as a cabinetmaker in 1932, before studying at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts, where he met his colleague and friend, Børge Mogensen. Wegner became an architect in 1938 and established his own design firm in 1943.
Throughout his long and productive life, Wegner received a number of awards and honours. These include his appointment as an honorary member of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and an honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London. He won the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale and he was the first recipient of the Lunning Prize. He also received the 8th International Design Award in Osaka, Japan. Wegner’s work has been featured at major design institutions around the world, such as the Museum of Modern Art / MoMA in New York and Die Neue Sammlung in Munich.
An organic, artistic approach to furniture
Throughout his time as a designer, Wegner challenged the understated aesthetics of Danish design many times. One of his most striking and bold pieces was The Ox Chair.
He challenged the prevailing sense of aesthetics when it was first introduced in 1960. Given its referencing ox horns, voluminous body, and delicate frame, it was a bold, confident design in contrast to the understated approach to Scandinavian furniture at the time. Furthermore, the chair demonstrates Wegner's organic, artistic approach to furniture and desire to redefine traditional seating.
The Ox Chair is arguably his most striking design, purportedly inspired by his fascination with Picasso's abstract paintings, claiming that design doesn't always have to be so "dreadfully serious".
Wegner chose to furnish his own home with the Ox Chair, as it was one of his personal favorites.