'The ideal chair does not exist’, Hans J. Wegner, one of the most iconic names in Design history once said. Perhaps he was right? Wegner spent his entire life in pursuit of the unattainable ideal, which would see him reinventing the chair again and again for almost half a century in over 500 different ways.
Throughout life we are told to sit up straight and not to slouch on sofas and armchairs – Wegner turned this notion on its head and was often seen with his legs swung over the armrests of some of his most iconic designs. At the centre of Wegner’s design philosophy was always universal comfort - the ability to always sit in whichever way is most comfortable and shift effortlessly between various positions.
Lot 607 | Design, Wednesday 20 October. An 'AP-19 Papa Bear' chair, designed by Hans Wegner for A P Stolen, Denmark, reupholstered in a blue-grey fabric with a buttoned back, teak arm panels, raised on oak supports, numbered '5' and with further handwritten numbers to the frame, 80cm wide 95cm deep 100cm high, seat 42cm high. Estimate £10,000-15,000.
Born in 1914 in Tønder, Denmark, Wegner began his apprenticeship as a cabinet maker at age fourteen. In 1940, after finishing his studies at the Royal Danish Academy, he was invited by Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen to design the furniture for Århus city hall. The project was the first glimpse of Wegner’s capabilities and opened in 1942 to critical acclaim, with one of the chairs sold to the Danish Design Museum. With his newfound domestic success, Wegner opened up his own furniture studio and continued to produce designs that still define Danish design to this day, such as the Wishbone Chair.
With the Papa Bear Chair, or Bamsestol, designed in 1951, Wegner sought to redefine the traditional straight-backed wing back chair, making it more inviting and versatile. The name came from one of his early reviewers, describing the teak topped tapering armrests surrounding the sitter as being cradled by a massive bear. The name stuck, perfectly encapsulating the comfort of a design still produced to this day and inspiring numerous interpretations and copies. The same year Wegner was awarded the prestigious Lunning Prize, an honour he shared with Finish design savant Tapio Wirkkala.
Lot 503 | Design, Wednesday 20 October. A 'Model CH24' armchair, Danish, designed by Hans J Wegner in 1949, made by Carl Hansen & Søn, also known as 'The Wishbone Chair, or 'The Y Chair', a painted beech frame with a twined paper cord seat, with manufacturer's plaque to the underneath, 55cm wide 51cm deep 76cm high, seat 45cm high. Estimate £200-300.
Wegner kept producing groundbreaking designs throughout his life, ranging from more conservative models, such as the CH23, to the modernist masterpieces, such as the Flag chair and Wegner’s personal favourite – the Ox Chair. Keeping innovation and playfulness at heart, form and function were always kept closely coupled, resulting in an immense breadth in both styles and materials used. The careful selection of materials and the attention to craftsmanship has also ensured their endurance, with many original production models surviving in good condition to this day. As such, whether it is fine dining in the Wishbone Chair or the intimate embrace of the Papa Bear, Wegner’s designs continue to define interiors, guaranteeing style and comfort lasting generations. With a track record like that, there is no wonder many of Wegner’s chairs are what we today consider just to be what he thought unattainable; ideal.
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