Exploring (and slightly disagreeing with) the Finn Juhl exhibition.


Across the museum courtyard, a beautiful red and gold building foreshadows the Finn Juhl exhibition we were about to see: Furniture for the Senses at Designmuseum Danmark.


Finn Juhl's gold and purple sofa designed in 1957, shown with a coffee table he designed for professor Alf Ross in 1948. Ross was a Danish lawyer, legal philosopher and the author of Guilt, Responsibility and Punishment in which he wrote about "morality's capacity to guide human behavior." Which brings me to the question of the built-in vase in this coffee table. Are we to see the flowers as imprisoned in the tabletop and, if so, what pray tell was their crime?


Finn Juhl designed this curvaceous sofa and his Eye Table in 1946, at a time when he was inspired by the works of Picasso and Henry Moore. 


Three years later, Juhl designed the Chieftains Chair, with distinctive shapes inspired by primitive weaponry. This sculptural chair was created for the 1949 Cabinetmakers’ Guild in Copenhagen. During the exhibition, King Frederick IX sat in the chair, causing a journalist to suggest calling it the “King’s Chair.” But Juhl didn’t like how pretentious that sounded and said, “You had better call it a chieftain’s chair.” (At some point the apostrophe was dropped from the name.) The Baker Sofa is shown in the background.


Speaking of kings (of modernism), Marcel Breuer's work (shown above) is included in the exhibition as an example of what Finn Juhl's work is not, and according to our guide, the Danish didn't understand Breuer's cantilevered chair because "it wasn't cozy enough."

I disagree.

If you compare Breuer's typing table and 1928 Cesca Chair with the Finn Juhl furniture below, you can see a strong connection between these two designers. Especially in how they approached a chair as a series of individual parts, with one element suspended over another and seats that appear to float above the frame. I think it's clear that Juhl understood Breuer perfectly, and was inspired by the same challenges. As for which one is "cozier" I leave that up to you. 


The exhibition concludes with Juhl's Nyhavn Table (1945), which he designed for his own use in his first studio, located at 33 Nyhavn in Copenhagen. There's also a version of this table with a white top in his home, which we saw the next day. That story and many photos will be posted in the near future. 

Hent vores app! (download our app): To learn more about Finn Juhl and Danish design history, download the Designmuseum Danmark app.