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The Chieftain and the Chair

The Rise of Danish Design in Postwar America

Publication supported by the Neil Harris Endowment Fund

A history of how Danish design rose to prominence in the postwar United States, becoming shorthand for stylish modern comfort.

Today, Danish Modern design is synonymous with clean, midcentury cool. During the 1950s and ‘60s, it flourished as the furniture choice for Americans who hoped to signal they were current and chic. But how did this happen? How did Danish Modern become the design movement of the times? In The Chieftain and the Chair, Maggie Taft tells the tale of our love affair with Danish Modern design. Structured as a biography of two iconic chairs—Finn Juhl’s Chieftain Chair and Hans Wegner’s Round Chair, both designed and first fabricated in 1949—this book follows the chairs from conception and fabrication through marketing, distribution, and use.

Drawing on research in public and private archives, Taft considers how political, economic, and cultural forces in interwar Denmark laid the foundations for the postwar furniture industry, and she tracks the deliberate maneuvering on the part of Danish creatives and manufacturers to cater to an American market. Taft also reveals how American tastemakers and industrialists were eager to harness Danish design to serve American interests and how furniture manufacturers around the world were quick to capitalize on the fad by flooding the market with copies.

Sleek and minimalist, Danish Modern has experienced a resurgence of popularity in the last few decades and remains a sought-after design. This accessible and engaging history offers a unique look at its enduring rise among tastemakers.

 

200 pages | 16 color plates, 36 halftones | 6 x 5 1/2

Art: Art--General Studies

Design

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