arm chair by Børge Mogensen and Lis Ahlmann 1941

 

Through the 1930s and well into the 1940s furniture designers produced chairs that took as a starting point the square set frame of legs and stretchers and upholstered seat and back of the Chippendale type or 'Red Chair' type by Kaare Klint.

This example by Børge Mogensen and Lis Ahlmann dates from 1941 shows that, although more organic and rounded forms of chair by Finn Juhl or Hans Wegner dominate our view of post-war Danish chair design, this more traditional chair type has  a distinct place in the evolution of modern Danish chair design.

Note the L-shaped wood arm rest fixed to the outer face of the side rail of the seat, half way along, and to the outer edge of the fully-upholstered back rest, about half way up. The upholstery is over a traditional cross basket weave of textile webbing with, presumably, a layer of horsehair padding. The inner edges of the legs are finished with a pronounced chamfer - to reduce the visual weight of the leg - and the chamfer runs out properly at the top, just below the point where the rails of the seat are housed into the legs.

A small arm chair very like this was first shown by Morgensen at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1939 but what is much more interesting is that these formal and more traditional designs seem to mark the end of his training and a point of change because he started to work for FDB - the Danish Co-operative - in 1942 and his designs for furniture made for them evolved rapidly so he produced simple and well-made chairs of very different forms for a much broader range of customer.

 

Chippendale stole / Chippendale chairs

 
 

designed by Børge Mogensen (1914-1972) and Lis Ahlmann (1894-1979)
made in teak by the cabinetmaker Ove Lander
the chair was shown at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1941

 

chair by Børge Mogensen 1949

 

As with the almost contemporary FH1936 chair by Hans Wegner - this chair has an elegant frame in wood that forms a base for the plywood back … here with a back in relatively thin plywood that was cut to shape and sections were  cut out so that the back could be bent round to a more pronounced curve and then held in place with tabs that are glued down into slots in the seat.

Faced in cherry, this was not cheap plywood but presumably it was presented at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition to prove that plywood was an appropriate material for more expensive furniture.

 

designed by Børge Mogensen (1914-1972)
made by Erhard Rasmussen
shown at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1949

cherry and teak

height: 75cm
width: 47cm
depth: 54cm
height of seat: 39cm

 

Spanish Chair by Børge Mogensen 1958

 

Børge Mogensen - the zebra skin and the wall hanging suggest that the photograph was taken in 1958 on the exhibition stand of the cabinetmaker Erhard Rasmussen at Kunstindustrimusset

 

designed by Børge Mogensen in 1958
shown by Erhard Rasmussen at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition at Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen in 1958

made by Fredericia

height: 67 cm
width: 82.5 cm
depth: 60 cm
height of seat: 33 cm

 

Designed by Børge Mogensen - The Spanish Chair was first shown in September and October 1958 at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition at Kunstindutrimuseet in Copenhagen - now called Designmuseum Danmark. Produced by the Danish furniture company Fredericia - they are now celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The chair was shown in an interesting room setting along with a very large sofa upholstered in a giant check that was said to be large enough to sleep three and there was a zebra skin on the floor and models of yacht hulls across the wall … all with the title “furniture for a country house.”

They were described by the critic Johan Møller Nielsen as -

“the chair and couch for the consummate idler! It is hardly possible to make furniture more expensive than this. The whole interior is wonderful to look at and to to be in, and it would be well suited to be exhibited in one of the rooms of the ‘Louisiana’ museum of modern art as an example of the best furniture design of our age. But it is of no value whatsoever to the average citizen …”

Louisiana - just up the coast from the city - had only opened that August.

Even reading the criticism several times, and having typed it out, it’s not clear if this is praise or criticism.

Of course, it’s ironic that Børge Mogensen, is being damned here, apparently, for designing furniture that the average citizen could not afford, because he was and is best known not just as one of the great designers of his generation but through the 1940s as the head of design for FDB - the Danish Coop - when they produced well-designed modern furniture of a high quality and at the lowest price possible.

For the exhibition in 1958 the set of Spanish chairs were made by the cabinetmaker Erhard Rasmussen but the design was then produced by the Danish furniture company Fredericia who still make the chair.

To mark the anniversary of the Spanish Chair, Fredericia have relaunched the dining chairs, with and without arms, that were designed in 1964 that have the same form of set and back rest with leather stretched across the frame and held in place with large buckles.

Fredericia