POUL KJÆRHOLM Danish, 1929-1980
Kjaerholm designed modern functionalist furniture that was praised for its understated elegance and clean lines.
He studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen where he would later teach, from 1952-56. He went on to become a lecturer and professor in the furniture and interior design department at the Academy of Art from 1957-76. Although he was formally trained as a cabinetmaker, Kjaerholm was a strong proponent for industrial production, and his work stands out among that of his Danish contemporaries because of his extensive use of steel frames rather than the traditional wood. He did, however, design many of his seats in natural materials like cane, canvas, leather and rope.
Inspired by Bauhaus design, Kjaerholm worked for several years manipulating the form of his chromed steel and leather chair that won the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennial in 1957. It appeared first in 1951 with an external frame, subtle armrests and a halyard seat and back and later evolved into the popular PK 22.
Throughout the fifties, he designed several other versions, one with a functional woven cane seat that would gently bend to the pressures of the body to give soft support, and employed the technique of padding the cane around the edges of the frame to make it more comfortable. The most successful incarnation of the chair, in leather, possessed an unadorned elegance that made him an international name.
Kjaerholm is also known for the PK 41 folding stool in stretched leather and his PK 24 deck chair. This work has an upholstered headrest and tilts the legs up on the gently sloped woven cane seat. One of his last pieces was the 1976 Louisiana chair for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Copenhagen, which was made with and without armrests and was produced in a wide woven maple.
Kjaerholm designed mainly for Fritz Hansen and E. Kold Christensen Ltd. Unlike many other Danish designers from the period, his work appeared at very few of the Copenhagen Cabinetmaker's Guild Exhibitions because he was working with newer materials. Although he maintained a close relationship with natural woods and traditional processes, his work was geared more towards mass production and the energy of the modern movement.
Kjaerholm was awarded the Lunning Prize in 1958 and worked as an exhibition designer in Denmark and abroad. The Mobilia Press wrote of him: "When Poul Kjaerholm's furniture is evaluated today, it is not by virtue of its quantity, but of its supremacy."