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Legroom was not yet a topic: Juhls design for the Scandinavian airline SAS.
© Designmuseum Danmark/Pernille Klemp
Legroom was not yet a topic: Juhls design for the Scandinavian airline SAS.

Reading educates 02
No color, no contract

The book “Watercolors” offers a selection of the artistic drawings and plans created by the Danish designer Finn Juhl together with Marianne Riis-Carstensen.​
by Anna Moldenhauer | 10/11/2016

Finn Juhl (1912 – 1989) is considered one of the fathers of what we now consider to be “Danish design”. Thanks to the mid-century boom, his furniture is once again in demand the world over. The designs behind his interiors are as fascinating as the interiors themselves are artistic: The hand-drawn and colored drafts and plans from the 1950s and 1960s stem from a time in which CAD plans and renderings were still beyond the realm of imagination. Finn Juhl therefore struck it lucky when he recognized the talent of his student Marianne Riis-Carstensen, noticing her colored paper designs at the “Skolen for Bodigindretning”, a school of interior design in Frederiksberg. He offered her a position as a draftswoman in his office for furniture and interior design – and Marianne quickly became his right-hand woman. During the 1950s she mainly converted Juhl’s designs into artful watercolors. Together, they honed new color nuances for upholstery, including “Lundstrøm pink”, which referenced the “gouache” colors of Danish painter Vilhelm Lundstrøm (1893 – 1950). Over the years they thus created a range of colors that corresponded to the zeitgeist of the time and indeed of today.

Without the coloration of technical drawings, the serial production for the Baker Furniture Inc. would not have been possible.
© Designmuseum Danmark/Pernille Klemp
Without the coloration of technical drawings, the serial production for the Baker Furniture Inc. would not have been possible.

The power of color

Marianne Riis-Carstensen managed to use watercolors to bring Finn Juhl’s sketches to life so convincingly that they were crucial in closing sales negotiations on more than one occasion. Hence Baker Furniture Inc. rejected the designer’s technical drawing in 1951, a deal that was supposed to mark the start of a serial production of furniture items for the “Baker Modern line”, and it was only after Riis-Carstensen had colored the draft and thus considerably helped to trigger the customer’s imagination that Juhl’s idea was accepted.

The “Watercolors” book by Anne-Louise Sommer, Director of the Danish Design Museum in Copenhagen, depicts more than 125 of the fine paper works, which act as something of a door-opener to the world of Finn Juhl. Through the perfect use of watercolors, the drawings of furniture, restaurants, shops, exhibition buildings, trade show stands, aircraft cabins and houses appear very vivid and allow the technical nature of the designs to recede into the background. Even decades after their creation, the vibrant tones are applied exquisitely.

Alongside the famous armchairs, the sketches also include two of Finn Juhl’s most comprehensive projects, namely the bright interior design of the DC8 jet for Scandinavian airline SAS and the design of the seating area of the UN Trusteeship Council in the UN building in New York. There the combination of wooden paneling, colorful details and comfortable armchairs makes for a pleasant atmosphere that is still appreciated by participants in meetings today. During the renovation of the building, which took place only recently, the furnishings were deliberately left untouched.

Design for the exhibition stand of "Dansk Kunsthåndværk" on the "Scandinavian Design", 1953
© Designmuseum Danmark/Pernille Klemp
Design for the exhibition stand of "Dansk Kunsthåndværk" on the "Scandinavian Design", 1953

Juhl was long considered a radical

Finn Juhl never witnessed his works become symbolic of Scandinavian design. It’s true that as early as 1944 he was awarded the C.F. Hansen Medal of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts for his contribution to architecture and won multiple prizes at the Triennale in Milan during the 1950s, but his designs were nevertheless long considered “un-Danish” and for many people were too radical to be categorized directly under the tradition of the famous Danish designer Kaare Klint. Interest in the unique sculptural style of his furniture waned ever more from the end of the 1960s until shortly before his death in 1989. Only now is his strong influence on the global success of Danish interior design given due recognition.

“Watercolors by Finn Juhl” offers a detailed insight into the development of organic furniture classics, living concepts and interior design with their influences from Surrealism and African art. The intense color tones of the watercolors, the soft color gradients and the accurately placed shadows achieve a quality of presentation that is miles apart from modern renderings, with the real difference being the heart and soul put into it.  

Anne-Louise Sommer
Watercolors by Finn Juhl

192 S., geb., 200 farb. Abb.,Text englisch
Hatje Cantz Verlag, Berlin 2016
ISBN 978 3 7757 4209 2
39,80 Euro

Finn Juhl at work.
© Det Kongelige Bibliotek
Finn Juhl at work.