When Hans J. Wegner unveiled the design of the CH07 Shell Chair in 1963, many critics loved the avant-garde look, but the general public was reluctant to accept its distinctive expression. Mixed reviews in the 1960s along with the less-developed production techniques of the time, resulted in very limited production. When Carl Hansen & Søn reintroduced the Shell Chair in 1998, it won broad public admiration almost immediately due to the interest of a new generation.
The design’s floating lightness is achieved through its wing-like seat and curved backrest held by a frame with three arched legs. The chair’s signature seat and backrest are created from upholstered form-pressed veneer, cradling the user in generous comfort. The chair’s laminated legs are made of several layers of veneer, and the two front legs are made from a single element, resulting in a unique and stable form.
The Shell Chair is a clear manifestation of Wegner’s belief that a chair should always be comfortable, have no back side and should be beautiful from all sides and angles.
Materials veneer, cold foam, fabric or leather
Hans J. Wegner was born in 1914 in Tønder, Denmark, the son of a shoemaker. At the age of 17, he finished his apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker with H. F. Stahlberg, in whose workshops Wegner’s first design experiments took form. He moved to Copenhagen as a 20 year-old, and attended the School of Arts and Crafts from 1936 – 1938 before he began working as an architect.
As a young architect, Wegner joined Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller in Århus, working on furniture design for the new Århus city hall in 1940. It was during the same year that Wegner began collaborating with master cabinetmaker, Johannes Hansen, who was a driving force in bringing new furniture design to the Danish public.
The Copenhagen Museum of Art and Industry acquired its first Wegner chair in 1942.
Wegner started his own design office in 1943. It was in 1944 that he designed the first “Chinese chair” in a series of new chairs that were inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs. One of these chairs, the “Wishbone Chair”, designed in 1949 and produced by Carl Hansen & Son in Odense since 1950, became the most successful of all Wegner chairs.
Among Danish furniture designers, Hans J. Wegner is considered one of the most creative and productive. He has received practically every major recognition given to designers, including the Lunning prize, the grand prix of the Milan Triennale, Sweden’s Prince Eugen medal and the Danish Eckersberg medal. Wegner is an honorary Royal designer for industry of the Royal Society of Arts in London. Almost all of the world’s major design museums – from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to Die Neue Sammlung in Munich – include his furniture in their collections.
Hans J. Wegner died in Denmark in January, 2007.
Hans J. Wegner’s contribution to Danish Modern:
- First a cabinetmaker, then a designer: integrates exacting joinery techniques and exquisite form.
- A deep respect for wood and its characteristics – and an abiding curiosity about other natural materials
- Brings an organic, natural softness to formalistic minimalism
- Generally regarded as ”the master of the chair”, with more than 400 chair designs to his name