Hans Wegner was born April 2nd, 1914 in Tønder, to parents Peter M. Wegner and Nicole M. Wegner, where his father was a shoemaker.
Hans Wegner was already oriented towards wood as material early in his career. He graduated as cabinetmaker in 1931 at age 17. He began at the Danish Design School in 1936, and in 1940 he was employed at Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen's design studio. Here, one of his first assignments was to design the furniture for the new town hall in Aarhus.
During the war, Wegner worked, among others, together with Børge Mogensen at FDB-Furniture, where he helped create FDB's low-cost quality furniture, which was an important part of the functionalism and ideology behind ’Danish Modern’. Wegner contributed in changing people's view of furniture in the 1950s and '60s.
Mainly furniture designer – especially chairs
Hans Wegner differs from several other personalities such as Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl by mainly concentrating on furniture and especially chairs. While, among others, Arne Jacobsen also was an architect and designed buildings, Wegner directs his entire focus on furniture design.
Wegner designed more than 500 chairs throughout his productive life. His popularity is partly due to the combination of his respect for nature and wood – and his minimalistic design in natural materials.
Wegner's popular chairs
Among Wegner's popular chair designs can among others be mentioned
- Wishbone Chair
- Papa Bear Chair
- Wing Chair
- Wegner Rocking Chair
- Wegner collaborated with Johannes Hansen and several others
Hans Wegner began in 1941 a collaboration with joiner master Johannes Hansen, and this was the beginning of a long and productive cooperation, which resulted in a number of Wegner's most popular furniture. Among others 'The Chair', Peacock Chair (Butterfly), in addition to the dining table 'Chinese dining table'.
After Johannes Hansen was discontinued, several of the chair productions has been taken over by PP Møbler (PP Furniture).
Wegner also collaborated with Fritz Hansen for whom he among others designed the China Chair.
Wegner's coffee table was originally produced by Andreas Tuck, but is no longer in production.
Wegner's own design studio
After having worked for a couple of years for Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner decided to open his own design studio in 1943. Here he began to design chairs which were inspired by the Chinese Ming era. It was in this connection that his Wishbone Chair was created, which today is among the most successful Wegner chairs.
It was also at his design studio that Wegner began to produce the FDB furniture together with among others Børge Mogensen.
He worked for many years at home at his own design studio, where he was extremely dedicated and produced hundreds of prototypes of new furniture. He seldom left his work and had reportedly not really any other interests.
Wegner's international career
Wegner's massive work performance led to an international break through in the 1950s. Here, many Americans became seriously aware of his furniture, after they had been on many American exhibitions and had gotten a lot of publicity.
Wegner received international awards like Lunningsprisen in 1951, and in 1971 he was awarded the 8th international Design Award in Osaka in Japan. Furthermore he was appointed as honorary Doctorate at Royal College of Art in London in 1997.
Furthermore, the designer's work can be seen at several exhibitions around the world. e.g. at MoMA in New York, Die Neue Sammlung in München and Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The last years of Wegner's career
Wegner retired as furniture designer in 1993, and his daughter Marianne Wegner, who is a qualified architect, took over her father's design studio. She worked together with her father for 20 years.
Wegner died after a long life January 7th, 2007 at the age of 92.
Paola Antonelli (head of the department for architecture and design at MoMA in New York) said after Wegner's death that he was one of the most earthbound designers, and that he would rather be know as a carpenter than as a designer.