Finn Juhl was a key figure in taking Danish design from his home country to the world in the middle of the 20th century.
Danish furniture design remains the last word in simplicity and beauty. It changed the way we look at furniture. Apart from the obvious beauty of Juhl’s designs – just take a glance at the Chieftain Chair, the 48 Chair, the 45 Chair and the Pelican Chair for a quick sample – he was in the right place at the right time.
In the late 40s, he wasn’t as famous as some of his contemporaries (think big names like Hans Wegner or Børge Mogensen) but caught the eye of Edgar Kaufmann – head of the Department for Industrial Design at Merchandise Mart in New York (and whose father commissioned Fallingwater) – on a tour of Scandinavia.
Kaufmann started importing his designs, which led to his becoming a key figure who took Danish design to the US and on to the world.
Juhl represents the middle point between the traditional cabinet-making practice that had dominated furniture manufacture before him, and the mass production techniques that typified high modernism after him.
He blended cutting-edge sculptural design while working closely with traditional cabinet makers, so his designs blend amazing detailed finishes and high craftsmanship with modern forms in a way that could never have existed before or after – the forms being too modern and the techniques too old-fashioned.
But in this case, the transition itself became a key moment in 20th century design.