Hans J. Wegner 1914-2007 Celebrating 100 years of a Master

Hans J. Wegner was born in 1914 in Tønder, the son of a shoemaker. At the age of 17 he was apprenticed to a carpenter (H. F. Stahlberg). During his apprenticeship he developed his first design. At the age of 20 he moved to Copenhagen to study at the institution now known as The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design but which back then went under the more modest title of ‘The Artisan College’.

He studied there from 1936-1938 and later became a tutor for 7 years at the same institution. After his 2 years, he further studied to become an architect. In 1940 Wegner initiated a joint project with Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller in Aarhus, which involved fitting out Aarhus town hall. It was also in 1940 that Wegner began to work with master carpenter Johannes Hansen, a man who played a significant role in bringing modern design to the Danish public. The then Copenhagen Industrial Art Museum (now Design Museum Denmark) purchased their first Wegner chair in 1942.

Hans J. Wegner opened his own design studio in 1943, and in 1944 he designed his  ‘China Chair’ in a series inspired by the Chinese Emperor's thrones. Wegners’ name became internationally known when John F. Kennedy was interviewed 1960 in the so called, ‘The Chair’, named as such after the interview against Nixon in the now famous presidential battle. The chair started a surge for Wegner’s furniture, and is still produced by PP Møbler.

A chair is regarded as the epitome of a designers portfolio, Wegner designed over 500 chairs throughout his lifetime, for a number of different companies. One of the most known chairs must be the so called ‘Wishbone Chair’, designed in 1949 which Carl Hansen & Søn have manufactured since 1950.  Hans J. Wegner is regarded as one of the world's outstanding furniture designers. He was one of the motive forces behind the Danish modern movement, inspiring new ways to furnish homes and buildings in the 1950s and 60s. His design never failing, seeing relevance for us still today and most likely will never end. His sense for detail and ergonomic accuracy is a source of constant admiration.

Wegner has received a number of prizes and recognitions. Amongst other things, he is an honorary member of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and has received an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London. He was also the first ever recipient of the Lunning Prize and received the 8th International Design Award in Osaka, Japan. His works are exhibited at major international museums including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and Die Neue Sammlung in Munich. Hans J. Wegner died in Denmark in January 2007 at the age of 92 Hans J. Wegner's contributions to Danish design: A master carpenter first and a designer second: Perfectly finished joints and exquisite forms. A deep respect for the wood and its character and an everlasting curiosity for good materials. He gave modernism an organic, natural softness. He is considered as ‘the master chair-maker’, designing more than 500 chairs during his lifetime and has never been surpassed.