Bruno Mathsson 1907–1988

Bruno Mathsson was a leading furniture designer and architect in the modern Scandinavian design movement that combined functionalism with craft traditions. He was born in 1907 in Värnamo, Sweden. His father, Karl Mathsson, was a fifth generation cabinetmaker and Bruno naturally took to the family trade. From a young age, Bruno Mathsson was particularly interested in the highly technical side of furniture design and he’d eventually manage to seamlessly integrate progressive technical feats with more traditional approaches. Mathsson’s first recognition came in 1930 when a chair he presented at an Arts and Crafts exhibition in Värnamo won him a scholarship to study in Stockholm. While there, he was able to see the up-and-coming developments in Swedish design. Incorporating some of these new ideas into his own work, Matthson’s output from the early 1930s is characterized by plaited webbing that supports the body like a sling, curved seats and backrests that conform to the body and bent laminated wood frames that are both elegant and robust.

In 1936, a solo exhibition at the Röhsska Arts and Crafts Museum in Gothenburg raised his profile as a designer and also introduced his celebrated series of folding tables. The following year, he won the Grand Prix at the Paris Expo for his Paris Daybed, gaining him an international audience that would grow in the coming years as his design were featured in museums and expos throughout the world. In the late 1940s and into the early 1960s, Mathsson turned his attention to architecture and created a number of glass houses: in America, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal that had large glass window panes instead of walls.

Mathsson returned to designing furniture in the 1960s, adding steel to his repertoire of materials and working with the Danish designer, poet and mathematician Piet Hein. He continued working up until his death in 1988, leaving behind a collection of designs enduring and memorable in their utility and charm.

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