Poul Kjærholm (1929–1980) graduated from the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts in 1952 and subsequently went on to teach there until 1956. His further academic career led him from lecturer at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1959 to head of the Institute of Design in 1973 and finally to professorship in 1976.
Kjærholm developed an artistic ideology very early on, one that he would follow without compromise throughout his career. The contrast between sculptural and architectural aspects was a major factor in this ideology — the effect achieved by placing a piece of furniture in an architectural space.
Kjærholm’s design is characterized by its understated elegance, clean lines and remarkable attention to detail — modest in means, but rich in expression. Although he always considered functionality an absolute requirement this was always done with an unwillingness to compromise as an artist. He was a true master of making a lengthy and difficult production process appear effortless in the finished piece of furniture.
While most of his contemporary designers preferred wood as their primary material, Kjærholm chose steel but always combined it with other materials like wood, leather, cane or marble. Of his favourite material he said: “Steel’s constructive potential is not the only thing that interests me; the refraction of light on its surface is an important part of my artistic work. I consider steel a material with the same artistic merit as wood and leather”.
As opposed to most of the cabinetmakers Kjærholm had worked with at the start of his career, manufacturer E. Kold Christensen had a deep understanding of Kjærholm’s intentions and the pair enjoyed an extraordinary close collaboration. E. Kold Christensen produced most of Kjærholm’s designs up until Kjærholm’s death in 1980. A wide selection has been part of the Fritz Hansen production since.
Kjærholm’s work is represented in numerous museums around the world, most notably in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the V&A Museum in London. He has won several awards including two Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale in 1957 and 1960, the Lunning Award in 1958 and the ID Award in 1973.