Scandinavian Design from 1930 to circa 1960.
The phenomenon of Scandinavian Design, for a long period during modernism, shows how the small countries of northern Europe became the trendsetters of good décor taste in many parts of the western world. The story of Scandinavian Design - an American term not found in any of the Scandinavian languages - includes the three areas: Japan, USA and Scandinavia. The background for simple, extremely well designed and functional everyday furniture can be found in Arts and Crafts, as well as Art Nouveau wooden furniture, hand blown glass and hand-turned pottery. Much of the inspiration for this comes from Japan, which, in its own time, also had a refined architectural and material culture based on Chinese models. Japanese influences were strong in the late 1800s, both in Europe and the United States, and they are found explicitly in particular with Danish furniture design of the mid 1900's.
Scandinavian Furniture Design often uses natural organic materials such as wood and leather. The wood was shaped so that it both expressed and matched the body's form and function. Much of the best Scandinavian furniture art used finely shaped wood - often in exotic types like teak, rosewood, mahogany, but also in maple, birch, oak, beech and ash. In addition to woodwork in solid wood, these designers often used plywood. Veneers were strong and sleek and could be molded. This is seen in much of what was created by Charles and Ray Eames' (LCW) (1945) for Norway Says, in the publication Wallpaper Master (2002).
It was in the late 1930s - with the Finnish pavilion at the World Fair in New York - and especially in the 1940s and early 1950s that Scandinavian design influenced American design. The connections between Scandinavia and the U.S. had some main channels. Eliel Saarinen and his son, Eero Saarinen, Finnish-born architects and designers, made a strong mark on American design from the 1920s onward. These famous Helsinki architects emigrated to America and in 1932, Eliel started the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, together with newspaper mogul and philanthropist George Booth. Frederick Lunning, director of the Danish design company Georg Jensen USA, created the Lunning prize, which went to Scandinavian designers, but was distributed in America. In addition, the two curators of design at the Museum of Modern Art, Eliot Noyes and Edgar Kaufmann jr, had great knowledge of and interest in Scandinavian designers. It was so popular that at the end of the 1940s, Alvar Aalto, who had designed the Finnish pavilion at the World Exhibition in New York, was commissioned to draw the large student house - Baker House - at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Finn Juhl, from Denmark, was awarded the contract to furnish much of the new United Nations building in 1952, including the Great Council Hall. And in 1960, when CBS televised the debates between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the candidates were seated in Danish Hans Wegner's The Chair. This phenomenon continued. When the Museum of Modern Art built a new extension, they hired the Japanese architect Yoshi Taniguchi and all the restaurants, rest areas and coffee bars in the new museum, which opened in 2004, are filled with Danish furniture, including designs by Poul Holm.
For the Permanent Gallery, the Drammen Museum has now acquired a number of exquisite examples of the best in Scandinavian and American modern design. Of particular importance is the couple Charles and Ray Eames. Their most significant invention was to double-and multi-press plywood. This resulted in some of the postwar era’s finest and most elegant wood furniture, which was made according to their designs and manufacturing methods. Here, in the exhibition, visitors can see a replica of their most famous chair the LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) from 1945. Charles and Ray Eames worked together with European designers, but they remained a significant source of inspiration for Scandinavian designers. Thus, both Arne Korsmo and Grethe Prytz Kittelsen were inspired by the Eames, and Danish Arne Jacobsen's most famous wooden chairs are inspired by their molded finér chairs.
Among the American designers who are represented here, Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames and Harry Bertoia were associated with the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Isamu Noguchi was born in Los Angeles, with an American mother and a Japanese father. He grew up in Japan and returned to the United States at the age of 14 to continue his education there. In this collection, both the Noguchi’s glass table and Eames and Saarinen’s Organic Chair are new productions.
The rest of the furniture displayed are authentic antiques. The Organic Chair was originally produced in a very small batch, but the chair won first prize in a design competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art in 1940 and was put into a series of production runs, which are ongoing today. The same applies to Noguchi’s classic, which was first produced in 1944, but is still produced today. The Drammen Museum sees this as an interesting point, since it was actually designed and created for mass production. This applies to several of the classics, including the LCW, although the chairs seen in the museum are from the 1950s and were produced by renowned furniture manufacturer Herman Miller.
Scandinavian Design is inextricably linked to modern architecture, particularly villa architecture. After each evolved in northern Europe and the United States, a warmer, more organic version of central European functionalism was carried out by Bauhaus architects, De Stijl and Le Corbusier. In such houses the aesthetic of the machine was much stronger than that of nature, and furniture was often more angular and harder, utilizing flat wood panels, bent tubular steel and hard, unstuffed leathers. The Nordic modernism - with inspiration from California, among other places, provided a framework for open, bright and airy homes, where large windows pulled nature into the house and where liquid room arrangements led movement through large patio doors and out into the garden and nature. These houses were often decorated with modern Scandinavian furniture and artifacts. The Drammen Museum has therefore acquired a number of ceramic and glass art works from the period, and all four Scandinavian countries are represented with leading designers and craftsmen. The use of these beautiful objects was often inspired by Japanese homes, where a single branch or a flower in a vase was the decoration. The use of plain-colored and wall-to-wall carpets was also part of the postwar decor taste. It created an intimate atmosphere and an increased feeling of comfort and relaxation. Modernism is inextricably linked to the democratic ideals of individual liberation and a healthier diet and lifestyle. The Drammen Museum presents its collection of Scandinavian Design on a light display, both to commemorate the objects’ use in the private environment, and to provide the form of secure and beautiful objects with a neutral background that allows them to stand out.
The new exhibition was made possible by a generous grant from the Drammen Museum Association.