The “Wishbone Chair”. The name itself provides intrigue. Pair that with the striking design & craftsmanship and it is no wonder that it has become an icon from the 1950’s of Danish Modern style…
In 1944 Danish designer Hans Jorgen Wegner began a series of what are referred to as “China Chairs”. Hans is said to have been inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting upon Ming thrones of Chinese emperors. Who knew? Touching briefly upon this designer’s history…born to a shoemaker, Wegner was trained as a cabinet maker. At the age of 17 Wegner was apprenticed to a carpenter, H. F. Stahlberg, at which time he developed his first design. At the age of 20 he moved to Copenhagen to study at the institution now known as The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design (then known as “The Artisan College”). Beginning his career as an architect, it was as early as 1940 that Wegner began to design for master carpenter Johannes Hansen. The talents of Wegner combined the skills of both and architect and a craftsman produced work that certainly garnered attention. Since 1950, Danish company Carl Hansen & Søn has produced the chair that is known as the “Y”, “CH-24” and iconically, the “Wishbone” chair. It is no surprise that the production of this sculptural chair has never halted.
On the website of Carl Hansen & Søn, it is stated:
“Hans J. Wegner is widely considered to be one of the leading figures in 20th century furniture design – and a driving force in the “Danish Modern” movement that changed the way people looked at furniture in the 1950s and 1960s.” -www.carlhansen.com
“A master carpenter first and a designer second: Perfectly finished joints and exquisite forms. A deep respect for the wood and its character and an everlasting curiosity about good materials. He gave minimalism an organic and natural softness. He is considered as “the master chair-maker” and designed more than 500 chairs during the course of his life”. -www.carlhansen.com
A designer of many chairs, it is perhaps the “Wishbone Chair” of 1949 that has been considered Wegner’s triumph. Clean lines and simplistic design made from natural materials, the chair is certainly striking from all angles. It is perhaps the characteristic “Y”-backed shape that held the strongest reference to this lightweight chair with the steam-bent solid wood frame. A product of skilled wood joinery paired with craftsmanship. Form and function, indeed. A key & unique component to this chair is the seat that is hand woven from paper cord. Of note, paper cord was was a durable material that was developed as a substitute for jute during WWII. Again, who knew? Still used today, it is said that there is over 400 feet of paper cord per chair (120 meters). Imagine! Hand woven style that adds further distinction to a silhouette of great style.
“Many foreigners have asked me how we made the Danish style. And I’ve answered that it…was rather a continuous process of purification, and for me of simplification, to cut down to the simplest possible elements of four legs, a seat and a combined top rail and arm rest”
-Hans Jorgen Wegner
Whether found in a solid oak, walnut or beech frame or renditions with painted or clear lacquer or an oiled finish, consider with appreciation the classic lines and simplistic style of the “Wishbone” chair. Distinctive style that stands the test of time. For certain, beyond its Modern Danish style, this chair can fit within a multitude of interior spaces. Iconically. A chair of comfort and style. Form and function at its best. Sculptural form of enduring appeal, indeed…
“A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles”
“A chair is only finished when someone sits in it”