I love Hans Wegner. I had heard about him for years, but because is was a Mid-Century Modern designer and my areas of expertise were not in 20th Century design, I never took the time to explore his works.
My interest was piqued about five years ago while reading Witold Rybczynski. Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair. As I mentioned in another post, reading this book on the history of the chair is required reading for anyone who has an appreciation of furniture. In short, Hans Wegner was simply the premier designer of chairs in the Danish Design Movement of the mid 20th Century. His work spans interpretations of classical design (the
Wishbone Chair and JH-501) to complete re-imagination of traditional forms (the Papa Bear Chair). In between are scores of designs that incorporate innovative materials (Twisted paper instead of woven rush seats), ergonomic developments such as chairs designed to sit across instead of straight in the seat (CH07 Chair) and multi-purpose chairs (Valet Chair). His repertoire extends to tables, case pieces, and sofas. His work is remarkable and worth spending a few hours researching.
I guess my reluctance to seriously investigate him earlier in my career had to do with the stigma of Mid Century Design. Not only did I rarely see design furniture, but I had incorrectly come to the conclusion that it was not as sophisticated as the older furniture that I was usually in contact with. It's a huge generalization, but I think it's fair to say that the antique camp and the design camp are on different sides of the stream. In reality, the mid 18th
century and the mid 20th century were not that different in terms of chair design. Both centuries saw the introduction of new chair designs, had widely recognized designers active and producing new work, and had a group of consumers willing to take a chance on the latest available taste.
This all brings into question why we tend as collectors to focus on one thing and rarely leave our comfort zone. I am not saying that one should abandon what they love to be surrounded by, but rather utilize your passion for one thing to try and gain a greater understanding of the whole picture. I still love to be around antiques, but I sit in a WIshbone Chair at my desk. My research into chairs as a whole and Wegner specifically has led me to understand both 18th and 19th century furniture better, because I tend not to treat them as distinct points but as points on a long continuum.