"What I want to express is the materials' own language" Poul Kjærholm has stated. He was especially inspired by the Bauhaus movement's doctrines of aesthetic simplicity. Like Louis Mies van der Rohe, he preferred the stylish steel to his furniture.
Born: 1929, in Østervrå. Died: 1980, in Hillerød
"What I want to express is the materials' own language." – Poul Kjærholm
Furniture architect Poul Kjærholm is considered one of the most important representatives of Danish design, with his timeless, minimal and modern design language.
At the age of 20, Poul Kjærholm was trained as a carpenter in Hjørring, and continued his education at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen, from 1949 to 1952, studying under Jørn Utzon and Hans J. Wegner. Just three years after he graduated, Kjærholm himself became an instructor at the School of Furniture in the Academy of Arts in 1955, and succeeded both Kaare Klint and Ole Wanscher as a professor in 1976.
Whereas Kaare Klint and Ole Wanscher were more traditional, Poul Kjærholm was captivated by international modernism. Kjærholm was especially interested in the doctrines of the German Bauhaus movement, regarding aesthetic and geometric simplicity. The joy of steel inspired Kjærholm, who was especially taken by world-renowned architect Mies van der Rohe and his Barcelona Chair and Barcelona Pavilion, designed for the 1929 International Exposition.
Poul Kjærholm's furniture departed significantly from that of Finn Juhl and Hans J. Wegner in both choice of material and form, where wood was replaced by steel, glass, marble, and leather as fundamental materials. Despite its simple appearance, Poul Kjærholm's furniture was far from cheap to produce, and right from the beginning, the furniture was expensive and exclusive — but Kjærholm was uncompromising when it came to quality.
With the strength of steel, Kjærholm was able to realise ideas that, to an even greater extent, produced timeless and modern furniture, freed of everything superfluous and unnecessary. Poul Kjærholm also took a mathematical, honest approach to constructing furniture, so visible joints can be experienced in all his furniture. Despite his status as a modernist figure in Denmark, together with Arne Jacobsen, Kjærholm was hardly enthusiastic about Jacobsen's The Egg and The Swan, which are soft, bulky, upholstered pieces of furniture.
Poul Kjærholm shaped some of the greatest icons of Danish furniture, such as PK 22 chairs and the PK 31 series. It's not only in Denmark that he is a recognised furniture architect. His furniture is part of permanent exhibitions at museums like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Poul Kjærholm designed most of his furniture for furniture manufacturer Ejvind Kold Christensen, and their collaboration lasted from 1955 until Kjærholm's death in 1980. Ejvind Kold Christensen had a background as sales manager for Carl Hansen & Son, and in 1949, he introduced Hans J. Wegner to Carl Hansen & Son's director, Holger Hansen, who saw potential in the young, previously unknown architect. The same year, Hans J. Wegner designed the Y Chair. Ejvind Kold Christensen later spotted a new big talent, Poul Kjærholm, with whom the Kold Christensen company, founded in 1955, enjoyed a highly successful partnership. In 1982, Fritz Hansen took over production from Kold Christensen.
Kjærholm's furniture produced by Ejvind Kold Christensen is particularly sought after for its eminent quality. Among other items, they produced the PK 22 armchair (1956), PK 31 series (1958), PK 9 Tulip Chair (1960), PK 54 dining table (1963) and PK 24 chaise lounge (1965). Kjærholm also worked with a range of other furniture manufacturers, such as PP Furniture, Ejnar Pedersen, Fritz Hansen, Rud. Rasmussen, Chris Sørensen, and Thorald Madsen.
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