chair for the museum in Faaborg by Kaare Klint 1914

Now, in many ways, this chair appears to be old fashioned - looking backward to earlier styles of furniture as a reinterpretation of an historic type of chair - but it should be seen to mark or define the start of a distinctly modern approach to furniture design.

Faaborg is on the south coast of the island of Funen - just over 40 kilometres from Odense. A new museum there was founded in June 1910 to display the work of a group of artists known as the Funen painters and in 1912 it was the artists themselves who proposed Carl Petersen to design a new gallery that was to be built along one side of the summer home and garden of Mads Rasmussen … a wealthy businessman who had made his fortune through canned food.

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The Red Chair by Kaare Klint 1927

Designed by Kaare Klint for Kunstindustrimuseet - the Danish Museum of Art and Design that is now called Designmuseum Danmark.

The largest version of the chair was used in the lecture theatre in the museum but there are also two smaller versions to fit at a table or desk and also two versions of the red Chair were made with arms - one with plain wood arms and another with padded or upholstered arm rests.

It is too easy now to dismiss this chair as 'old-fashioned' or at least not particularly relevant to what is happening now in modern chair design and that is, in part, simply because it is not a type or style of chair that is now popular.

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Chair for Kvinderegensen by Rigmor Andersen 1931

chair in Designmuseum Danmark

 

After studying technical drawing for a year in 1922 Rigmor Andersen entered the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where she was a student under Kaare Klint in the new School of Furniture and then, from 1929 to 1939, worked in Klint's studio. Her designs for the furniture for Kvinderegensen, a residence for women students on Amager Boulevard in Copenhagen was one of her first major projects and included this chair from 1931.

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Deckchair by Kaare Klint 1933

chair photographed at Designmuseum Danmark when it was part of a major exhibition on Kaare Klint

 

 

This is not exactly a recliner - you don't lie back in a horizontal or almost-horizontal position - but by having the foot rest raised level with the seat you are 'sitting with your feet up' to use a slightly old-fashioned English phrase that is more than a straight description of how someone is sitting but implies just a bit of pampering or self indulgence.

The chair looks as if it would be most appropriate for the deck of an ocean liner but when it was first shown at the Cabinetmakers' Guild Furniture Exhibition in 1933 it was described as suitable for a garden terrace.

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3daysofdesign - craft and craftsmanship

Rud Rasmussen, Bredgade, Copenhagen - showroom opened during the 3daysofdesign event

Generally, talking about craft and craftsmanship now, we tend to think of something that is made by hand rather than manufactured - and of pieces of work that are produced as unique items or at least in limited numbers - so something that is unique and highly specialised like a gold or silver cup for a special event - or, at the other extreme, something that is made by someone who might not be a professional or working full time as in pottery or weaving at a craft market.

In fact use of the word craft in English is quite complex and quite subtle implying, to quote the definition in the Oxford dictionary, “Intellectual power; skill; art; ability in planning or constructing, ingenuity, dexterity …. the learning of the schools; a branch of learning; a science … a calling requiring special skill and knowledge … “

In those senses it is possible, clearly, to talk about craft (as in skill and knowledge) in industrial manufacturing.

Rud Rasmussen - The Faaborg Chair designed by Kaare Klint in 1914

The new showroom for Rud. Rasmussen on Bredgade in Copenhagen is obviously about a company with a long tradition of craftsmanship with the employment of craftsmen to produce furniture using well-established skills. The showroom, actually launched during the 3daysofdesign event, has a reconstruction of a workbench that is used for making a Faaborg Chair, designed by Kaare Klint in 1914, and shows clearly the work, skill and time required to produce this furniture using the best materials.

This craftsmanship - in the sense of the understanding the materials used and understanding and making careful use of the skills required to produce a piece - can be most obvious to a customer in the recognition of quality and the appreciation of quality control for the final piece - so the customer becomes aware, when they look at or pick up a piece, that it is beautifully made, without obvious faults and irregularities and feels solid or robust … it is something that is well made and made to last.

Bestlite table lamp from Gubi

With a Bestlite from Gubi you can see immediately that quality is carefully maintained to ensure the continuing reputation of both the design and the brand. Skill and craftsmanship or, rather, the clear understanding of the relationship between the design, an understanding of the materials and the techniques and the mechanics of production for the execution of the design can be used to develop new designs for the range such as the Bestlite table lamp with an opaque glass shade, or new versions of the lights with turned brass shades or lights with stands and fittings in brass that are new but have an appropriate level of patina.

Gubi 52 Chair by Komplot Design 2003

The same level of “skill and knowledge” - the same sense of craftsmanship - from the design process through to manufacture - can be found in upholstery although it might not be so obvious. Selection of the right fabric to maintain the complicated shape of a chair or sofa; the use of piping to define the edge of piece in an elegant and understated way; the setting in of the upholstery from the edge of a shell chair to define crisply the edge (rather than using the cheaper, easier and clumsier method of just wrapping the fabric round and fixing it on the underside) or the even less obvious experiments and trials to produce better, long lasting foam for upholstery that maintains shape and does not go brittle and break down over time as early foams did - are all good examples of craftsmanship and skill and the application of knowledge and experience.

a logo for Rud. Rasmussen Snedkerier

 

 

Kaare Klint worked with Rud Rasmussen Snedkerier from 1926 onwards and their cabinetmakers produced nearly all of his furniture and many of the fittings for the new museum in the old hospital as work on the restoration progressed.

In May 1944 Rasmussen celebrated their 75th anniversary and Klint designed a commemorative wood plaque to mark the occasion. That design is still the logo for the company whose workshops are on Nørrebrogade in Copenhagen.

 

cupboard by Rigmor Andersen

 

Rigmor Andersen (1903-1995) trained as an architect and then from 1928 she was one of Kaare Klint’s first students on his furniture design course before working in his studio. She exhibited works at the Cabinetmaker Guild’s annual exhibition. From 1944 through to 1973 she taught at the Royal Academy School of furniture.

This piece, a silver cupboard with drawers, is in Brazilian rosewood with ebony handles and brass hinges and lock and was made by Rud. Rasmussens Snedkerier. It may be the design that was exhibited at the National Museum in Stockholm in 1942 - a copy of that piece was made in 1948 for the Kunstindustrimuseet (now Designmuseum Danmark).

Note the bevelled edges of the doors that sit against the bevelled edge of the side and top boards to give an elegant slim line when the door is closed. This is reminiscent of the display cases designed for the museum by Klint and also made by Rud. Rasmussen. The brass hinges have the simplest possible shape and are set flush and on the inside of the doors the holes for hidden fixing pins are filled with plugs of dark wood for a very subtle decoration.

The drawers have a fine beaded edge - again giving an elegant framing line. Legs are formed from two pieces of wood forming an L shape for strength and given a slight profile at the base. Cross bars or stretchers hold the frame of the legs together allowing the legs to be thinner. The top edge of the leg frame is bevelled and given a set back, again to give it a subtle and elegant emphasis by, in effect, creating a slight shadow below the door.

 

The cupboard is on display in the Designmuseum in their current exhibition Cupboards, cabinets and chests.