Georg Jensen, the greatest silversmith of the 20th century, valued tradition yet always remained open to innovation. He also had a rare ability to recognize and foster talent in others. This generosity of spirit still guides the Georg Jensen Company and has been a major factor in its continuing success.
Jensen deeply believed in the importance of the collaborative process, one of the basic precepts of the Arts & Crafts movement in which his work was rooted. He even took the unusual step of permitting other designers to use their own distinctive marks on their work for Georg Jensen. This practice of giving credit where credit is due continues to the present.
In the company’s 117 years, more than 90 designers have contributed to the evolution of Jensen style. Among the most important contributors:
Jensen’s first collaborator and life-long friend, Rohde worked with the firm for years. His restrained, elegant “Acorn” flatware pattern, created in 1915, is one of the world’s best-known silver designs. Eighty different pieces are still produced today.
Some Rohde designs were far in advance of their time. His iconic pitcher #432 was designed in 1920 but wasn’t produced until 1925. Still a top seller, it’s been called the single greatest silver design of the 20th century.
Georg Jensen’s near contemporary and brother-in-law, Nielsen moved beyond Jensen’s signature naturalistic designs with their sinuous rounded leaves, blossoms and fruits to a more stylized look.
Nielsen’s restrained decoration and pared-down Functionalist esthetic made him a favorite designer in the 1930s. Like so many other Jensen designers, his work seems timeless. Nielsen remained active in the firm until the 1960s.
Albertus started his 40-year career at the Georg Jensen Silversmithy when Jensen himself was still active. As well as being responsible for quality control, Albertus designed the popular “Cactus” pattern (1930) and the first Jensen stainless steel flatware in 1941.
His simplified floral decoration was a transition from Jensen’s early more ornamented patterns to the abstract Modernism of post-World War II.
Georg Jensen stepped away from day-to-involvement in the Silversmithy in 1919. His philosophy of affordable, functional beauty expressed in metal continued to guide the output of a growing international business. Several generations of designers have continued to carry forward Jensen’s vision of elegance in design coupled with excellence in craftsmanship.
In 1930, Sigvard Bernadotte, a son of the King of Sweden, attended the Stockholm Exhibition and was immediately convinced to become a designer. Bernadotte spent the next 15 years designing 150 pieces of hollow ware, and many unique presentation pieces, for Jensen, designs that perfectly captured the sophisticated Functionalist aesthetic of the years between the wars.
Bernadotte carried forward Jensen’s mission to create beautiful objects for the home that could be afforded and enjoyed by many. Departing from Jensen’s own more nature-based realistic designs, Bernadotte was a pioneer of Swedish Modern style. He brought to Jensen an emphasis on restrained linear designs featuring engraved line and fluting. The “Bernadotte” flatware he designed in 1939 is still produced and widely admired.
Trained as an artist and sculptor, Koppel started at Georg Jensen in the 1940s. He designed some of the company’s most renowned pieces. Koppel never worked in silver himself; he rendered his designs in plaster and turned them over to the silversmiths to be made in metal.
Henning Koppel was lauded for creating elegant “functional sculpture,” notably his extraordinary abstract pitchers and platters. These sleek designs, devoid of ornamentation set the tone for the modern 1950s and 60s postwar era.
The Georg Jensen Company has managed to balance continuity and renewal, remaining in the forefront of contemporary silver design for over 100 years. Some who have carried forward the Jensen tradition in more recent years:
Danish-born Ditzel, like many other notable Jensen designers and like Jensen himself, did distinguished work in other fields as well as silversmithing. She was an award-winning furniture designer before she turned to jewelry in the 1950s.
Ditzel’s designs were bold and architectural. In a departure from Jensen’s signature metal, silver, several Ditzel creations were also produced in 18 karat gold.
Søren Georg Jensen
Georg Jensen’s fifth child, Søren like his father studied sculpture at the Royal Danish Academy. In 1949 the young man became a designer at the Georg Jensen Company and was its artistic director from 1962 to 1974.
He contributed a series of notable hollowware pieces as well as some jewelry.
Søren Jensen’s work was inspired by the Functionalist movement, which emphasized linearity and freedom from ornament. He incorporated abstract geometrical shapes in his designs, stressing clarity and balance.
Astrid Fog was a fashion designer who started creating jewelry to complement her clothes. She designed her first jewelry collection for Georg Jensen in 1969. The most successful of her 1970s silver spiral pieces for Jensen was a simple, large heart pendant on a chain.
Her Modernist sensibilities were displayed in basic geometric shapes: circles, squares, and rectangles. Fog’s jewelry is notable for its unconventional bold hollow forms.
Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe
Known simply as Torun, she was one of Sweden’s leading 20th century designers and soon became internationally noted. Her “anti-status” jewelry designs, featuring silver wire and non-precious stones, were already well known when she began to design exclusively for Georg Jensen in 1969.
Torun’s signature bangle wristwatch, “Vivianna,” became the first Georg Jensen watch. Her jewelry, inspired by elemental shapes such as flowers, leaves, and water, displays her ability to make metal seem infinitely flexible. Her biomorphic bracelets and necklaces seem to flow naturally around the wearer’s body.
The Georg Jensen Company remains the design leader in silver. The continuing admiration and loyalty of both clients and designers for more than a century is proof of Jensen’s creative spirit and his success in attracting and encouraging the creativity of others.
Skinner is pleased to be able to offer a wide variety of work from the Jensen dynasty in a number of sales categories, including silver, jewelry, and 20th century design. You will find opportunities to acquire examples of the most iconic designs of the last 100-plus years at www.skinnerinc.com.