A prolific furniture designer, Hans Wegner is one of the founding fathers of Scandinavian design. Born in 1914 in Tønder, Denmark, this shoemaker's son completed his apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker at the age of 17 with H.F. Stahlberg, under whose guidance he made his first formal experiments with wood, before leaving for Copenhagen at the age of 20 to attend the School of Arts and Crafts from 1936 to 1938, which enabled him to set up as an architect.
As an architect, the young Hans J. Wegner joined Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller in Århus. Together with them, he worked on the design of furniture for the reception hall of the new Århus City Hall in 1940. In the same year, Wegner began to work with the master cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen, whose technique played an important role in the development of Danish furniture.
Hans J. Wegner set up his own design office in 1943. In 1944, he designed his first "Chinese chair" based on portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs. One of these chairs, the so-called "Wishbone Chair" (CH24), designed in 1949, was so successful that it has been manufactured continuously since 1950 by Carl Hansen & Son in Odense.
Hans J. Wegner is considered one of the most creative and productive Danish furniture designers. He has been awarded almost all existing design prizes, such as the Lunning Prize, the Grand Prix of the Milan Triennale, the Swedish Prince Eugen Medal and the Danish Eckersberg Medal. Many of the world's leading museums pay tribute to him, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Die Neue Sammlung in Munich, by including his furniture in their permanent collections.
Hans J. Wegner died in Denmark in January 2007.
If we had to summarize his life and work in three points, we would say
- he was a cabinetmaker as well as a designer and had a perfect command of woodworking techniques
- he knew how to bring a natural tenderness and softness to functionalism
- he was a master of seating and created more than 400 chairs and armchairs.
The "Peacock Chair", "PP550", designed by Hans Wegner in 1947, is produced by the historic Danish publisher PP Møbler.
Designer Finn Juhl is said to have given it its nickname, "peacock", in reference to the fan-shaped backrest with enlarged rods above the armrests to make them more comfortable.
The iconoclastic, divisive shape of the "OX Chair", or "fauteuil bœuf", designed in 1960, reflects Hans Wegner's constant quest for perfect comfort: its wide, horn-shaped backrest allows a multiplicity of positions.
Initially rejected by critics, the chair became a success in the 1980s when it was reissued by the publisher Erik Jørgensen, now merged with Fredericia.
"You must take care that everything doesn’t get so dreadfully serious. You must play - but we must play seriously."
« The good chair is a task one is never completely done with. »