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 material limits of wood, producing unique sculptural frames that required complex joinery, which he and Vodder developed in tandem.
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.
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, sculptural furniture and mature into his enduring and distinctive style.
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
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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