Designer: Axel Einar Hjorth

Axel Einar Hjorth was one of Sweden's most significant furniture designers in the era between the great wars, and today is celebrated as an icon of Scandinavian design.
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5 Things to Know about Axel Einar Hjorth

In 1923, Hjorth curated the Jubileumsutställningen; the Jubilee Exhibition was lauded as a breakthrough for Swedish decorative arts.

Hjorth made his name as a furniture designer at Nordiska Kompaniet where he was head of the furniture department for a decade.

His works ranged from elegant and detailed with inlay to simple and rustic.

He participated in several national and international exhibitions including the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

Hjorth’s Sportsugemöbler, or furniture for holiday houses, feature simple and modern lines and as decorator, Pierre Yavanovitch notes, are “a brilliant union between tradition and modernism”.

Furnishings from the Väddö line by Axel Einar Hjorth for Nordiska Kompaniet. Photo by Erik Holmen, courtesy of Nordiska Museet

Auction Results Axel Einar Hjorth

Axel Einar Hjorth and the Sportstugemöbler

By Thomas Ekstrom

Exhibition installation featuring Hjorth's Utö line of Sportstugemöbler, c. 1932. Photo courtesy of Axel Einar Hjorth: Möbelarkitekt.

For more than a decade Axel Einar Hjorth had the opportunity to develop his ideas in a limitless and creative way and today, he is credited with making some of the most interesting modernist pieces, not only in Sweden, but in the whole of Scandinavia. In 1929, just two years after becoming the furniture architect for the prestigious Nordiska Kompaniet, Hjorth presented a line of furniture called Sportstugemöbler, or weekend house furniture, at the spring exhibition. The designs consisted of simple lines and construction rendered in pine that mixed aesthetics from the peasant handicraft with international modernism. 

Besides looking great, the Sportstugemöbler line exhibits the layered artistic quality of Axel Einar Hjorth’s hand and vision. The sculptural layer is maybe easiest seen in the Utö coffee table (1932), aka the Brancusi table, a name found on a drawing in the NK archive and refers to Hjorth’s admiration of the sculptor. At the time, the office at NK had an extensive collection of magazines and books dedicated to contemporary French sculpture. 

Axel Einar Hjorth 1888–1959

Axel Einar Hjorth is commonly regarded as the most significant furniture designer of Sweden in the era between the great wars, though his life was afflicted with dramatic changes. Born poor and raised by a single mother in the small village of Krokek, they spent his first years under very modest circumstances. At five, the two moved to the burgeoning industrial town of Norrköping where they lived under economic pressure. Hjorth’s mother’s financial state diminished and at the age of twelve, the young boy was adopted-away to a well-off family. The young Axel learned new social codes, increased his education and become a skillful actor in the bourgeois life in a developing city.

In 1908, at the age of twenty, Hjorth moved to Stockholm to study at Högre Konstindustriella Skolan (later to be Konstfack). After two years and the death of his stepfather, who did not leave him an inheritance, he was forced to break off his studies before completion. Hjorth found work in both small and major furniture companies in Stockholm before becoming the head of the assembly section of Jubileumsutställningen (the Jubilee Exhibition) in Gothenburg 1923. The English critic P. Morton Shand characterized this exhibition, largely curated by Hjorth, as the beginning of the breakthrough of Swedish decorative arts: “The Gothenburg Exhibition of 1923 revealed [...] that [Sweden was] almost the only one that really counted as far as design and craftsmanship were concerned.”

In 1927, Hjorth acquired the most prestigious job a furniture architect could get in Sweden – head of the furniture department at Nordiska Kompaniet (NK). At that time, the department store was the most important furniture producer and above all, the most exclusive one. Furniture from NK was often executed by skilled carpenters in exotic wood with inlays and expensive woodwork. It was at NK that Hjorth made his name as furniture designer.

The Island of Utö

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