Poul Kjaerholm

An Influential Danish Designer

Poul Kjaerholm (1929-1980) was among the most influential designers to emerge from Denmark in the past century. His rigorous approach to craftsmanship resulted in furnishings that defied the mass production approach adopted by many midcentury designers. Poul Erik Tøjner, director of the Louisana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, says of Kjaerholm’s designs: "[Their] integrity is on a collision course with society’s ordinary notion of availability: that everything must always be like me, that everything must always be changeable, that everything must be always within reach." Distinctly Danish in their emphasis on uncompromisingly fine materials and craftsmanship, Kjaerholm’s works are as relevant to contemporary life as the day they were designed.

A piece of Poul’s furniture is like an elegant written character that gives the room in which it stands solidity and calm. Poul Kjaerholm entered the scene at a time when Danish furniture had reached a zenith, both at home and abroad, designed and shaped by inspired architects and cabinetmakers. Poul’s furniture found a natural place for itself on the same high level, but he broadened furniture design with a completely new view of furniture.

—Jørn Utzon

Poul Kjaerholm 1929–1980

Furniture designer Poul Kjærholm was a significant figure in Danish modern design uniquely blending craftsmanship and industrial production. Trained as a cabinetmaker in Hjørring, Denmark in 1949, he later studied furniture design at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen, graduating in 1952. In 1955, he was hired by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts as a lecturer and also designed the, now iconic, school’s desks. In 1976 he was welcomed back as a professor.

Kjærholm’s timeless designs are functional and durable. He often worked in steel, leather and glass, placing importance on the relationship of the piece to its environment. Kjærholm received many awards throughout his career including two Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale, the Lunning Prize in 1958, the Eckersberg's Medal in 1960, and multiple ID awards. In 2006, Kjærholm was the subject of a major retrospective at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. His work is included in the permanent collections of museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York where designs are featured throughout the galleries and restaurant. Poul Kjærholm died in 1980.

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