In the 1930s, Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) conceived a series of bentwood, cantilevered chairs in a style reminiscent of earlier examples in tubular steel by Marcel Breuer and other designers associated with the Bauhaus. At the time, Aalto noted that "steel and chromium are not satisfactory from the human point of view." He instead looked to Finland's abundant birch forests for the raw materials for his furniture. This humanistic approach to object design, paired with a respect for natural materials and a restraint in form and decoration, has become closely associated with Scandinavian design. Beginning March 18, 1997, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present some 20 works by Aalto and his contemporaries in Scandinavian Design 1930-1980, an exhibition in gallery 170 on the Museum's first floor.
The installation will be drawn from the Museum's extensive collection of 20th-century design and will include works by Swedish, Danish and Norwegian makers in wood, glass, metal, ceramics and plastic. Aalto's furniture will be featured alongside designs by Hans Wegner (born 1914), a Danish cabinetmaker whose rethinking of such traditional forms as the Windsor chair resulted in furniture celebrated for both a high level of craftsmanship and adaptability to mass manufacture.
Also on view will be works in glass by Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), one of the most important Finnish designers of the postwar period. Wirkkala's organic designs, such as the "Kantarelli" vase the name and form of which were inspired by the chanterelle mushroom, were produced in glasss, metal and wood.
In addition, Scandinavian Design 1930-1980 will feature the one-piece, plastic "Ericofon," designed and produced by the Swedish company, L.M. Ericsson. The lightweight telephone displayed "compactness, mobility and a new relation to its user" and was marketed in a range of pastel colors beginning in 1954.