Danish modern designer Poul Kjærholm was born in 1929 in Østervrå in the north of Denmark. He studied cabinetmaking before matriculating at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen to learn furniture design. Kjærholm graduated in 1952 and the following year he married his wife Hanne, who went on to become an accomplished architect.
Starting in the mid 1950s, Kjærholm was employed by Ejvind Kold Christensen, who allowed Kjærholm to experiment widely with minimalist forms and industrial materials. In particular, Kjærholm drew stylistic inspiration from designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gerrit Rietveld, and Charles and Ray Eames. To elaborate a bold new vision for mid-century Danish design, Kjærholm endeavored to move away from the rounded, fuller shapes that many had come to expect. Similar to Kaare Klint, Kjærholm wanted to reduce design to its essentials and achieve purity of concept.
Kjærholm attracted early attention with his PK 0 plywood furniture series and his PK 61 coffee table with its sleek steel frame and square top. In 1956, Kjærholm debuted his iconic PK 22 lounge chair for E. Kold Christensen to match the PK 61 coffee table. The PK 22 was almost universally acclaimed and won the Grand Prize at the Milan Triennale in 1957 as well as the Lunning Award at the Formes Scandinaves exhibition in Paris in 1958. Kjærholm introduced his low-profile PK 80 daybed and three-leg PK 11 dining chair in 1957. The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen hired Kjærholm to teach design in 1959, which is when he released his PK 33 tripod stool. Kjærholm's style evolved in the 1960s to favor more fluid lines as typified in 1965's hammock-style PK 24 chaise lounge made from steel and woven cane. Kjærholm won the Danish ID Prize for product design in 1967, the year he fashioned his PK 20 rocking chair.
In 1973, Kjærholm joined the faculty of the Institut for Design, where he taught until his death in 1980. While E. Kold Christensen manufactured Kjærholm’s furniture during his lifetime, Fritz Hansen took over production starting in 1982 and still retails contemporary versions of the most famous lines. In 2004, Kjærholm’s son set up Kjærholm Productions to supplement the market with designs that Fritz Hansen had discontinued. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark held a Kjærholm retrospective in 2006 and today his designs are on view at various institutions throughout Scandinavia, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
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