Designer: Finn Juhl

Wright proudly celebrates the work of iconic Danish designer Finn Juhl. His expressive and highly influential designs have captivated collectors since the early 1950s and bring impressive results in today’s market.

$2.75 million in sales
More than 400 works sold
85% sell-through rate
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People should be able to use a piece of furniture, and if they cannot, I’ve made a serious mistake...it should also have an artistic quality that can make it exciting and in tune with its surroundings. After all, furniture is not created just to be looked at.

Finn Juhl

Niels Vodder & Finn Juhl

A Prolific Partnership

The great Danish cabinetmaker Niels Vodder built most of Finn Juhl's furniture over the course of their thirty year working relationship. The two presented twenty-two shows together at the annual Cabinetmaker's Guild exhibition between 1937 and 1959. Juhl's furniture was known for pushing the creative and materials limits of wood, producing unique sculptural frames that required complex joinery, which he and Vodder developed in tandem.

The most interesting thing at the exhibition was Finn Juhl’s work. He does not build upon a refinement of traditions, but has logically divided each project up into its functions and created forms for them himself. During the first years, these experiments seemed exaggerated, at times far-fetched, which makes it even more interesting now to observe the results which this man has achieved in his own way. –Erik Herløv, 1945

Juhl and Vodder first worked together in 1933 — twenty-one-year-old Juhl was a student at the Architecture School of the Royal Danish Academy of Arts and was living in his own apartment (a rarity at that time for a student). He wanted to furnish the space with his own designs and asked Vodder to build the pieces for him, thus beginning their illustrious partnership. In 1937, Juhl and Vodder made their debut together at the Copenhagan Cabinetmaker’s Guild exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Art and would show together for the next twenty-two years.

Finn Juhl's 1951 Cabinetmaker's Guild showroom, with works built by Niels Vodder. Photo credit: Dale Rooks.

Juhl wouldn't receive his first major production offer from a large company until 1950. Throughout the 1940s and on, Vodder would make some of Juhl's most iconic works, helping Juhl fully realize his innovative organic, sculptural furniture and mature into his enduring, distinctive style.

Auction Results Finn Juhl

A Life of Art and Design

As a young man, Finn Juhl had wanted to study art history. His father pressured him into a more practical profession: architecture. Juhl's early and persistent love of art greatly influenced his style and he was vocal about how the direct influences of modern artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Le Corbusier and Jean Arp shaped his designs. He also often included these artists and Danish artists he admired in his Cabinetmaker's Guild exhibitions. Out of the prominent Scandinavian mid-century designers, Juhl was perhaps the most sensitive and responsive to the modern art of the era.

The craftsman’s ability to form is probably the same as that of a sculptor. A chair is not just a product of decorative art in a space; it is a form and a space in itself… furniture is furniture, not sculpture. But both fields involve the work of giving form.

Finn Juhl

Finn Juhl 1912–1989

Finn Juhl was a pioneering designer, famed for his organic, sculptural style, as well as a key proponent of bringing mid-century Scandinavian design to the wider world market. Born in Frederiksberg, Denmark in 1912, Juhl’s father was a textile wholesaler who insisted that his son pursue architecture, rather than studying art history, which was his real passion as a young man. In 1930, he enrolled in the Royal Danish Academy of Art’s School of Architecture in Copenhagan.

After graduating in 1934, Juhl went on to work for architect Vilhelm Lauritzen for eleven years. During this time, monumental shifts were taking place in architectural practice and theory; at the time, historicism was still the predominant style, with a surge of Neoclassism beginning around 1910. By the mid-1930s, functionalism had emerged as both a practical and aesthetic style to meet the changing needs of a rapidly modernizing society. Innovative materials and building methods were developed, creating an entirely new architectural language. Juhl worked on The Radio House (Radiohuset) in Copenhagan with Lauritzen, the headquarters of the national Danish broadcast company. Completed in 1945, it is one of the first major works built in Scandinavia in the prevailing functionalist style.

In 1933, while still a student, Juhl was living in his own apartment (a rarity at the time) and wanted to furnish the space with his own designs. He hired cabinetmaker Niels Vodder to build the furniture, beginning a prolific partnership that would last for over thirty years and would significantly shape the look of modern design. They debuted their first showroom together at the 1937 Cabinetmaker’s Guild exhibition, to mixed reviews. Largely self-taught as a furniture designer, Juhl was creating works distinct from the popular style of the time. Kaare Klint, already a celebrated and established designer, was responsible for bringing Danish design to prominence in the previous decade, founding the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Furniture School in 1923. Thus, Danish design in the 1930s was heavily influenced by Klint’s style—functional, rectilinear, over-sized forms, traditional materials and an austere color and texture palette inspired by English and 18th century furniture. Juhl and Vodder’s creations were very consciously organic, in conversation with modern art and explored new materials and construction—a stark contrast to Klint’s refined conservatism. While his work was considered controversial when it was introduced, over the years, Juhl eventually became the highlight of the annual Cabinetmaker’s Guild, and in the 1950s his designs began being produced by Baker, France & Son and Bovirke, among others. Due to the specificity of this designs and the sculptural quality of the wood frames, many of his works were not suited for wide production and thus were made in smaller editions. In the late 1950s, the cabinetmaker tradition fell out of style with the rise of counter-culture, a growing middle class and the spread of mass consumerism.

In addition to being a celebrated furniture designer, Juhl contributed considerably to the proliferation and regard of modern design around the world. He curated and designed over sixty exhibitions, including the landmark Arts of Denmark at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1960 and Two Centuries of Danish Design at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 1968. Juhl was also an interior designer, receiving his first major commission in 1946 for Bing & Grondahl department store in Copenhagan. In 1950, he was chosen to furnish the Trusteeship Council Chambers at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and in 1956, he began a relationship with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), designing thirty-three ticket counters around the world and the interiors of their jets. Juhl’s designs for SAS built off the traditions of Nordic arts and crafts, using fine woods, light, airy textiles and exhibiting a great attention to detail, bringing the modern Scandinavian look to the world. Similarly, beginning in 1957, Juhl became the official architect of Georg Jensen stores, overseeing the look of the globally-expanding brand. From 1945 to 1955, Juhl also taught at the School of Interior Design in Copenhagan.

In 1978, Juhl was named an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts and a retrospective of his work was held at the Danish Museum of Decorative Arts in 1982. Juhl died in Ordrup, Denmark in 1989 and his home, which he meticulously built and filled with his own works, is now a historic house museum, preserved just as it was when he lived in it. This visionary designer created many iconic modernist works that continue to delight with their great humanity and enduring spirit.

If you would like to learn more about a work by Finn Juhl in your collection, contact our specialists today!
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