Finn Juhl (b. Frederiksberg 1912, d. Ordrup 1989)

“The Poet”. Freestanding two seater sofa with round patinated Cuban mahogany legs. Upholstered with white wool. Model FJ 41. Designed 1941. Made 1941 by cabinetmaker Niels Vodder. H. 82 cm. L. 142 cm. D. 82 cm.

Provenance: Finn Juhl. Part of the interior at his house at Kratvænget from 1941. Gift to current owner who belongs to his family from Finn Juhl.

It is one of two test examples Finn Juhl designed in 1941, which were made by Niels Vodder and shown at the Cabinetmakers' Guild Exhibition the same year. It differs from the editions Vodder made in the 1950s, Partly because of the club-shaped legs in contrast to the later tapering legs, but also due to a much stronger different sculptural form, with bigger curves on back and armrests. In 1941, Finn Juhl exhibited for the fourth time at the annual Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition in Copenhagen. At that time, Finn Juhl was employed at Vilhelm Lauritzen's design studio and had lost his father, wholesaler Johannes Hansen Juhl, the same year. At the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition, Finn Juhl, in collaboration with master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder, presented a living room that received mixed reviews, to say the least: “... that are chubby at the bottom and rise up at the top like a duvet lifted up in all four corners …”, “... It is and will always be a baren coziness ...” or “It has become aesthetic in the worst meaning of the word.” These were remarks they were sent home with.

The problem was perhaps simply that Finn Juhl was one of the few in a small country who had embraced the international organic modernism and had incorporated it into his furniture ahead of most others at the time. The sofa that resembles a piece of frozen cloth both embraces the person who sits in it as well as the international art movements at the time. At the exhibition, it was placed under a work from 1940 by Icelandic artist Sigurjon Olafsson, entitled “Þrá.” The artist had a very special position with Finn Juhl. One might ponder how Finn Juhl managed to create such different and daring furniture pieces during a time marked by scarcity and moderation. Perhaps the explanation is, at least partly, very simple. Finn Juhl had already inherited a significant amount of money during his studies, and with the death of his wealthy father in 1941 combined with his permanent position at Vilhelm Lauritzen's design studio, he probably did not have the same need for making furniture at Vodder that actually made money compared to other young architects. In fact, one might think that he already in the design of the furniture pieces had a particular customer in mind ... namely himself. In 1942, Finn Juhl built the house that today stands as the best testimony to his design and ideas. Again, this project was probably made possible by the inheritance from his father. In an article from 1944 in the magazine “Arkitekten” written by Finn Juhl himself, which shows both photographs and a furniture plan, it can clearly be seen that Finn Juhl's best customer in the first years as part of the Cabinetmakers’ guild was … Finn Juhl. Thus, one finds both the two FJ-41 sofas here, the two “Grasshopper” chairs from 1938, the Pelican chair from 1940, the easy chair from 1937 etc. Finn Juhl simply designed furniture the way he literally wanted them for himself.

Today, Finn Juhl's house appears with a different decor, and even though it now stands as a frozen image of his ideas, But the interior of the house has changed many times over the years.

Finn Juhl was married in 1942 to Inge Marie Skaarup, but when their marriage ended, much of the original furniture was also divided up between them. In Finn Juhl's later cohabitation and marriage with Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, the interior also changed continuously. The FJ-41 sofa today placed in his house was only placed there after his death.

One can rightly claim that the present sofa up for auction is the one that belongs by the fireplace in Finn Juhl's house.

Literature: Esbjørn Hiort: “Arkitekten Finn Juhl”, ill. p. 30. Literature: “Finn Juhl Memorial Exhibition”, ill. p. 127. Literature: Grete Jalk [ed.]: “40 Years of Danish Furniture Design”, vol. 2, pp. 159.


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