Pelican Chair by Finn Juhl 1940

 

Finn Juhl (1912-1989) had trained as an architect, at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, and not as a furniture maker, so his design for the Pelican Chair was realised with the cabinet maker Niels Vodder and two of the chairs were shown at the exhibition of the Cabinet Makers’ Guild in 1940. With their strong sculptural form and simple but hefty wooden legs set at an angle, the chairs must have caused a fair bit of discussion and controversy at the exhibition and subsequently commercial production was limited. 

A version of the chair - with thinner and upturned wings set lower to the back - was shown at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1939 with a sofa, desk, chairs and shelves that were all made by Niels Vodder. In a review, Hans Hansen wrote in Arkitekten that the “general opinion will probably be that the whole arrangement is most peculiar, but it offers a valuable chance to challenge established norms, and arouse discussion ....” and when this, the final version of the arm chair, was shown in 1940, Eiler Abel, again in Arkitekten, thought the chairs “resemble more than anything tired walruses.”

OneCollection reintroduced the design at the Cologne furniture fair in January 2001 and now,  to mark its 75th anniversary, have produced a special edition of the chair covered in a fabric based on a drawing from 1942 entitled Macbeth by the Danish artist Asger Jorn - a contemporary of Juhl’s who studied in Paris under Fernand Léger in the late 30s and also collaborated with Le Corbusier.

 
 

 

Although the new Pelican is true to the scale and shape of the original chairs from the 1940s, those first chairs had a pine frame with several layers of upholstery but for the current version this has been replaced with a hard foam shell with a steel core.

 

height: 68cm
width: 85cm
depth: 76cm
height of seat: 37cm

these dimensions are from the chair now made by OneCollection

NV 44 by Finn Juhl 1944

 

In 1944, Finn Juhl was in his early 30s when he designed the NV 44 Chair. NV are the initials of the cabinetmaker Niels Vodder. Juhl first collaborated with Vodder in 1937 and they worked together on many designs through until 1959.

From 1930 to 1934 Juhl had trained as an architect under Kay Fisker at the Royal Danish Academy and then worked in the architectural firm of Vilhelm Lauritzen for ten years although increasingly he focused on interior design and on designing furniture. 

This chair came at a turning point in his career and in 1945 he left Lauritzen to set up an independent design company and his reputation now is based on his furniture designs rather than his work as an architect.

The NV 44 chair is quite a virtuoso piece with shapes and lines curving and flowing through different planes. An English form of chair called a balloon back has a similar line for the back with the back legs flowing up in a single curve into the rounded arch of the top of the back rest but here the arm rests also flow round and through the same shape so it looks almost as if it should be made in a mould rather than constructed from separate pieces of shaped wood.

There are interesting technical details like the side braces that, rather than running between the back and the front legs, are set at a sharp angle to run up from the back legs to the centre of the front frame of the seat forming a V shape. This means that in silhouette the space between the legs looks uncluttered.

On balance, the design seems more dated, more fixed in the 1940s, than Wegner’s comparable chair, The Round Chair, from 1949. Perhaps it is the deep leather-covered seat although that too is given a rounded shape … earlier leather chairs would normally have had flat front and side rails with the leather fixed by a line of nails along the bottom edge … as with the Red Chair and the arm chair from Rud Rasmussen both designed by Kaare Klint in the late 1920s.

This comparison with the work by Klint shows just how much the form of armed chairs in Danish design changed over less than 20 years from something solid and robust, still linked to cabinetmaker’s work of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to a style that was fluid and sculptural.

 

NV 44 by Finn Juhl in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

 

in 2012, to mark the anniversary of the birth of Finn Juhl, a limited edition of the chair was produced by OneCollection

 

 

photographed at Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen