Modernist 20th Century /07 December 2003


Finn Juhl

Chieftain chair
Niels Vodder
Denmark, 1949/1961
teak, leather
34 w × 39 d × 38 h in (86 × 99 × 97 cm)

Originally designed for the Cabinet Maker's Guild exhibition in 1949, the Chieftain is Finn Juhl's most distinctive chair design. The form is a culmination of years of designing by Juhl to create a chair composed of free elements, in contrast to the prevailing aesthetics of overstuffed furniture at the time. Rietveld and Breuer originally developed the concept of a free seat and backrest but the refined tastes and warmth of Juhl's Scandinavian sensibilities came to a completely original form in the Chieftain lounge chair. Niels Vodder Cabinetmakers created Juhl's early work in very limited numbers and fewer than eighty Chieftains were originally made. A fine example from the original owners who purchased the chair in Copenhagen in 1962. Signed with branded factory marks.Literature:Finn Juhl: Furniture, Architecture, Applied Art; Hiort, pg. 32

provenance: Private collection, Idaho

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $15,340

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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. 

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