Verner Panton (1926–1998) is the ‘enfant terrible’ of Danish furniture design. Characterized by Poul Henningsen as “stubborn and forever young” Panton used his imagination and enthusiasm to combine high-tech materials, playful shapes and an array of bold colours, until an entirely new and different idiom emerged.
After graduating from the Royal Academy in Copenhagen in 1951, he worked briefly at Arne Jacobsen’s architectural office, before setting off in his Volkswagen van in a bid to explore Europe and at the same time find possible investors. He returned to Denmark, not with contracts, but full of ideas, and soon after landed his first major job — designing the interior of the Komigen (Comeagain) Inn. This resulted in “the Cone Chair”, which was placed in an all-red setting, causing sensation.
During the sixties Panton continued his visionary approach; he designed furniture, lamps, textiles and exhibitions, culminating with the Visiona ll interior at the 1970 Cologne Furniture Fair, an amazing fantasy landscape.
Panton’s most well-known piece is without doubt his “Panton Chair” (or “Stacking Chair”), designed in 1960. It wasn’t until 1968, after many attempts that the American company Herman Miller finally succeeded in putting it into mass production: The world’s first one-piece moulded plastic chair. It was an instant success, and with its sleek shape and bright colours it became a sixties style icon.
Panton’s eccentric style, by many regarded as provocative, was an obvious target for criticism, but it is a mistake to think that he wasn’t serious; Panton was an innovator, he possessed a remarkable desire to experiment and play, and due to him new shapes, new colours, new materials and new ways of perceiving space were tried out.