Hans J. Wegner is considered one of the greatest furniture designers of the 20th century, creating more than 1000 designs throughout his career. Wegner’s designs have often been described as ‘iconic’, ‘timeless’ and ‘free from passing trends’. With a craftsman-like, pragmatic approach to designing furniture, Henrik Most described Wegner’s approach as, ‘The biggest freedom stems from the most severe strictness’. In the dialogue between material and creativity, Wegner surpassed most of his peers and is one of the mid-century’s most notable designers.
The son of a cobbler, Wegner was born in 1914 in Tønder, a town in southern Denmark. He began his apprenticeship with Danish master cabinetmaker H. F. Stahlberg when he was just 14 years old. Later on, he moved to Copenhagen and attended the School of Arts and Crafts from 1936 to 1938 before setting out as a furniture designer.
In 1938, Wegner was approached by architects and designers Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller, and started designing furniture for the new Aarhus City Hall. During the same period, Wegner began collaborating with master cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen, who was a driving force in bringing new furniture design to the Danish public at the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibitions.
The core of Wegner’s legacy is his focus on showing the inner soul of furniture pieces through a simple and functional exterior. Wegner’s background as a cabinetmaker gave him a deep understanding of how to integrate exacting joinery techniques with exquisite form. His aesthetic was also based on a deep respect for wood and its characteristics, and a vast curiosity about other natural materials that enabled him to bring an organic, natural softness to formalistic minimalism.