During his relatively short career as a furniture designer, Poul Kjærholm made his mark as one of the finest representatives of modernism.
His work was deeply rooted in the Danish furniture tradition, but also inspired by some of the most prominent international designers.
Through his important work as an architect and teacher, Poul
Kjærholm is regarded a central figure in international furniture
design. Kjærholm combined his modern form language with an
uncompromising approach to materials and quality, strongly rooted
in the Danish tradition of craftsmanship. At the same time, he was
deeply inspired by the German Bauhaus School and the Dutch De Stijl
movement, represented by painter Piet Mondrian, among others.
Designers Gerrit Rietveld, Mies van der Rohe and Charles Eames also
greatly influenced Kjærholm's work.
Not all of Kjærholm's inspiration, however, was drawn from
abroad. He was also deeply influenced by Danish furniture designer
Kaare Klint, who helped found the Department of Furniture Design at
the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and, with his ideals of
simple form and outstanding craftsmanship, is viewed as the father
of modern Danish design. Klint's vision of simple and clear
expression had a major impact on Kjærholm who, like Klint, was
uncompromising in his work with proportions and materials as well
as in his craftsmanship.
Kjærholm made a name for himself primarily with his modern
steel, leather and glass furniture. After completing his training
as a cabinetmaker in Hjørring, Denmark in 1949, he went on to study
furniture design at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts (now the
Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design) in Copenhagen,
graduating in 1952 and returning again to teach shortly afterwards.
He became a lecturer at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in
1955, and was appointed as professor in 1976, succeeding Ole
Wanscher. Kjærholm remained at the Academy until his death in
Function and clarity became the hallmarks of Kjærholm's entire
career as both an educator and a furniture designer. He did not see
himself as someone who designed objects, but rather as someone who
created spaces. He often designed furniture with particular places
in mind, doing so with a rigor and level of detail that continues
to arouse admiration. In his own words, Kjærholm strived to express
each material's own language - whether he was working with steel,
leather, glass, wood or wicker.
Kjærholm was an idealist in his field. Throughout his career, he
avoided easy solutions and refused to be influenced by shifting
fads. He was driven by a desire to realize each material's
intrinsic nature and create harmony between form and material - and
often felt there was only one solution to a given problem. He was a
demanding teacher guided by perfectionism and discipline, his
idealistic approach to design also manifesting itself among his
Kjærholm's furniture is represented in a number of international
museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work
earned him numerous awards, including the Lunning Award in 1958,
the Eckersberg's Medal in 1960, and multiple ID Awards.
Kjærholm's iconic Professor Table deigned for the Royal
Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1955.