Georg Jensen Silver ~
The 100th Anniversary


Courtesy Imagination Unlimited Pin #159 set silver stones Design Georg Jensen, 1914

By: Caryl Rose Unger, Harold M. Unger, M.D. and Jamie Unger-Fink

As seen in Antiques & Art Around Florida, Winter/Spring 2005

This year, in between April 20th and August15th, lovers of Georg Jensen Silver, who had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, were treated to an exceptional opportunity. Three generations of our family were fortunate enough to have been able to make this pilgrimage. This gave us the chance to have visited two outstanding exhibitions that were mounted to honor the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of Georg Jensenís shop at 36 Bredgade in Copenhagen.

Georg Jensenís life story and the chronicle of his development from a one man operation in 1904 to the Silversmithy today is a wonderful and exciting saga. This story has been well documented in other publications.

Our goal is to give a verbal snapshot of what the two exhibitions, one at the National Museum of Art in Copenhagen and the other at the Oregaard Museum in Hellerup, had offered for the visitor, collector, historian, and antique dealer.

The landmark exhibition offered by the Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Museum of Art) was a beautifully creative exhibition. That the National Museum offered space to a company, still in operation, in the field of silver was a testimonial to the place Georg Jensen, the man and Georg Jensen, the Company, held in the estimation of the art world.

The exhibit was produced with the help of Michael Von Essen, curator of the Georg Jensen Museum and staged by Bille August. It was our good fortune to have been escorted through the exhibit by Mr. Von Essen. A more knowledgeable Georg Jensen expert and more pleasant docent could not be found anywhere else.


Courtesy Imagination Unlimited Blossom 2D Tea Pot Design Georg Jensen 1905

August, a winner of an American Oscar for Documentaries, used his theatrical background to bring a most interesting concept to this show. His excellence in display and innovative lighting only enhanced the beauty of the silver and art which was being presented.

It was Augustís feeling that the Seasons always have had a profound impact on the people of Denmark. This influence was felt by Artists, as well. To this end, August chose to display the silver, along with art from the Museumís collection in separate sections of a maze, entitled- Summer, Autumn, Winter, Thaw, and Spring.

Summer

The first room of the Maze-like exhibition was Summer. As one walked into the room there was a clear covering over a display case set into the floor. Almost all of the 268 pieces of the Acorn pattern, designed by Johan Rohde, were underneath and walking on it was a startling sensation. On one side of the room was a painting by Valdemar Moller (1864-1905 entitled: "Sunset, Fontainbleau"). Its colors ranged from white-hot to a warm reddish yellow.

The row of beige fabric display columns on the other wall supported a range of brooches which focused on the Jensen firmís celebration of the world of flora and fauna. These works, which were not arranged chronologically, were designed by Georg Jensen, Viviana Torun Bulow-Hube, Henning Koppel, Arno Malinowski, and Lene Munthe.

The stylistic range of the brooches extended from the intricate weaving of vines and set stones in Brooch #159, by Georg Jensen to the smooth, elegant simplicity of the Mobius Ring Brooch #374 by Torun.

Also shown in this section was the "Grape Bowl" No. 264A which has become symbolic of Jensenís design and style. The stem of the bowl was like a vine, twisted and uneven and the hanging grapes were attached to the cleanly designed body of the bowl.

Autumn

Leaving Summer, one moved into the Autumn section. The light became dimmer. The paintings had a more somber approach to their view of landscapes. These included paintings by Vilhelm Hammershei (Near Fortunen, Jaegersberg Deer Park) and an abstract untitled ,framed piece made of adhesive foil on plastic foil, by Claus Carstensen.

Here, the silver became increasingly abstract. The designs were simple. Ornamental elements were reduced to a minimum in all of the pieces. There were five candlesticks- one by Harald Nielsen, three by Johan Rohde. The last was by Sigvard Bernadotte. Bernadotte was born the son of King Gustav VI Adolphus of Sweden and the brother of Queen Ingrid of Denmark.

There were five other paintings, done by Per Kirkeby, Jens Birkemose, Wilhelm Freddie and two by Asger Jorn.


Courtesy T.C. Thulstrup & G.E.C. Gads Forlag Bowl # 19 Louvre Bowl Design Georg Jensen 1912

The first two pieces of Jensen hollowware appeared here. The first was a Jensen bowl. This round, footed bowl supported by stylized leaves is called the "Louvre Bowl". This bowl is in the permanent collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

Two other bowls, one by Georg Jensen and one by Harald Nielsen emphasized how both of the artists used the beauty of the objectís shape, rather than any decorative elements, to create outstanding pieces of silver.

The jewelry in Autumn began with Georg Jensenís Necklace #1set with Carnelians. There were eighteen other necklaces that showed the range of designs from 1916 to 2004. This group included the work of Georg Jensen(1), Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube(3), Harald Nielsen(1), Anne Ammitzboll(1),Nanna Ditzel(4), Astrid Fog(2), Bent Gabrielsen(1), Arno Malinowski(1), Henning Koppel(2), and Ib Dahlquist(1).

The last of the pieces, done by Jacqueline Rabun, from the United States, was created especially to commemorate the anniversary year by using a design based on the number 100.

Winter

Here one entered the darkest room of the labyrinth. Geometric shapes and biomorphic forms were emphasized in the pieces displayed. There were two paintings, one by Finn Mickelborg and the other by Gunnar Aagaard Andersen. Their abstract shapes in some way mirrored the silver in this section.

As one entered this space a spectacular use of lighting highlighted the huge fish platter by Johan Rohde. Each hammer mark on the curved lid of the platter reflected a separate ray of light that bounced off and landed in a large random pattern of spots of light that resembled stars in the heavens. It was a breath taking moment for all of us.

Two bowls and an exquisite fish Platter by Henning Koppel were featured in this section. The platter with its wide belly and open lip handles was uniquely simple yet in a glance made it seem as though the platter was actually holding the fish in its expanse.

Verner Pantonís dish, in contrast, was a flat sheet of silver which was crushed and molded as though it had been in a collision. Here, too we found the first of the dramatic works by Allan Scharff. His free flowing forms, many of which relied heavily on bird like shapes, were dramatic and strong.

The space ended with a series of rings by Nina Koppel, Regitze Overgaard, Kim Buck, and the Silversmithy, plus a watch by Edward Kindt-Larsen.

Thaw

This phase of the exhibition and the year was thaw. To symbolize the long, steady progression towards Spring, this portion of the exhibition was a long hallway. The paintings by Richard Mortensen and Franciska Clausen were colorful blends of shapes with differing textures.


Courtesy Michael Von Essen Bowl #1386 Design Kim Buck, Georg Jensen 2004.

To express this journey towards Spring, nine different designs were highlighted in the tea and coffee sets that were shown. They were designed by Soren Georg Jensen, Verner Panton,Harald Nielsen, Johan Rohde, Georg Jensen, Henning Koppel, and Sigvard Bernadotte. A fantastic silver wire bowl by Kim Buck was also on display.

These sets dramatically showed the range of skill and design the firm has exhibited. It started with The remarkable Blossom teapot #2D, by Georg Jensen, which heralded an entirely new approach to silver design when it appeared in 1905. It ended with the Henning Koppel and the Sigvard Bernadaotte sets. We were struck by the skill, virtuosity, and sheer beauty the Jensen company and its designers had been able to achieve.

Spring

Fun, playfulness and energy were demonstrated in this, the last room of this wonderful journey. Contrasted with the lushness of form as was shown in the first room, Summer, there was an emphasis on the new ways of working with form. Circles and spirals seemed to be symbolic of rebirth and growth.


Courtesy Imagination Unlimited Watch "Vivianna" #326 By Vivianna Torun bulow-Hube 1968

Three painting by Asger Jorn, Kasper Bonnen and Peter Bonde added color and lightness to the room.

Simple, beautiful and yes, sensuous shapes characterized the pieces in this section. This was evident in the watch "Vivianna" by Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube. Its mirror face and open bracelet expressed how Torun felt. That one must rebel against the restraints imposed by time. In its original design Torun placed no hands on the face of the watch, to further reinforce this concept. Hands had to be added when it went into production.

Allan Scharffís Pitcher, "Humming-bird" almost flew off its pedestal. This area included a large thermos designed by Sigvard Bernadotte, Pitchers by Johan Rohde and several by Henning Koppel, whose Pipkin was also shown. These and the "Ibis" by Allan Scharff were fitting endings for the exhibit. The designersí ingenious use of forms that were innovative and unique in their simplicity was a memorable climax to this spectacular exhibition. The last display, before leaving the room, was a wall showing hundreds of the Michelsen Daisy brooches, arranged particularly well and suggesting a field of Daisies.


Courtesy T. C. Thulstrup & G.E.C. Gads Forlag Three Pitchers Design Henning Koppel #978, 992, 1053, 1948-56

The exhibition was so exciting that we went back a second time just to savor its beauty.

The Unknown Georg Jensen

This second exhibition, The Unknown Georg Jensen, was produced through the remarkable efforts of the members of Georg Jensenís family and their organization, "The Georg Jensen Society". Spearheaded by Michael Krogsaard (granddaughter, Pia Jensenís spouse) and with the help of others in the family and many friends ,a milestone exhibition has been created. There was also financial support from the Danske Bank and the Augustinus fund.

The show was in what had formerly been a private home, the Oregaard Museum, in Hellerup. This town is a few miles from Copenhagen. It was the site of Jensenís last home and his final resting place, in the Hellerup Church Cemetery.

This exhibit offered the viewer an opportunity to treasure the many items owned by Georg Jensenís relatives that were put on public display for the first time. Most were given as gifts to family members for special occasions, such as engagements, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, christenings and as personal presents, made by Georg Jensenís own hand, each of these had a very special and unique significance.

The Hellerup Exhibition successfully gave one an excellent insight into Georg Jensenís skill, not only in silver, but in sculpture and ceramics.


Courtesy
Georg Jensen Society Hanging Flower pot #193 Design Georg Jensen for Ipsen pottery

Before establishing himself as a silversmith, Georg Jensenís first venture was in the field of sculpture. Examples of his work included here are his first sculpture, "My Father" done in 1887, a plaster model possibly of the Goddess Diane created while Jensen was in Naples, Italy, a Bronze of his son Vidar from 1900, a statue, of his son, Jorgen,1902, a mask of fired clay of The Doctorís daughter from Horsholm, and a statue of the actor Olaf Poulsen done in 1899.

Jensen also designed a porcelain vase called Storm. This was not produced until 1990. When it was released by Royal Copenhagen it included a silver disc in the base that indicated it was a Georg Jensen design, with a facsimile signature.

From 1898 to 1903 Jensen designed for the Ipsen Terracotta factory. Twenty-two items were known to have been produced, including a version of his statue" The primitive man" which showed a Boar hunter just after the kill.

All but three of these clay pieces have been found and those were illustrated with black and white photos from an original catalogue.

This phase of Jensenís productive life has never been so extensively presented and it gave the viewer an excellent opportunity to appreciate his skill and originality.

Jensenís earliest known piece of silver, designed in 1899, was shown. It was called The Adam and Eve Buckle.

Beginning in 1904, when Jensenís shop first opened, he devoted himself fully to the design and production of Silver works. Only the Jensen family could have presented such an array of Georg Jensenís early work, since many were unique, and had never been put into production.

There were brooches, Tortoise shell combs set with agate and amber, belt buckles with or without matching brooches, a matching hair barrette and belt buckle from Jensenís own hand in 1906. There were rings and cake servers from 1904-08, and bracelets, and silver cups from 1904-08.

Among the earliest pieces of his work were two spoons and a pair of casters made from drawings by a prominent Danish architect, Anton Rosen. Jensen and Rosen continued their relationship when Rosen went on to design the plans for the Palace Hotel. The hotel was situated on the City Hall Square in Copenhagen. Still in existence and actively operating, the Palace was a showplace for Jensen because he was commissioned to design all of the flatware and service items for the dining rooms of the hotel. The silver plate items ranged from the smallest spoon to elaborate coffee - tea sets, beautiful urns, cake plates on pedestals and centerpieces. Jensenís original drawings were hung on the museum walls near the silver. Although designed by Jensen in Denmark, the Palace silver plate was manufactured by Mappin and Webb in London, England.

When the Palace Hotel was sold in 1965, all of this plate was dispersed and it is remarkable that such a fine selection could have been assembled and shown here.

Jensenís cup, made for the Butcherís Guild in 1917, was on display. Although it has been pictured many times in books, seeing it first hand demonstrated, to us, Jensenís great ability to design finely formed decorations. The cupís massive size was indeed a surprise to all of us.


Courtesy Georg Jensen Society Jewelry box ebony and silver design Georg Jensen 1906

In the next section of the exhibit, the items that Georg Jensen made for special occasions were displayed. Because of the personal relationship between Jensen and the recipient, these were all unique. Many items from the familyís gorgeous and special collections have never been seen in public, prior to this time. They included a jewelry box of ebony and silver done in1906, an inkwell made in 1911 and various items of wonderful jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, rings, and brooches).

A highlight of the exhibit was the presentation of work which Jensen produced during a two year period (1924-1926) while he resided in Paris. France. One major piece is a covered tureen made especially for the "Exposition Internationale Des Arts Decoratifs Moderne" in 1925. There was a fruit bowl with two handles from 1926 and a picture frame showing Jensenís use of filigree work. Jensen often used filigree decoration in that period of time. A bonboniere with a lid was also exhibited.

Two styles of flatware Jensen designed in that era were on display. One of these, Viking or Nordisk went into production in 1927 and the other, very simple linear pattern, that has never been produced.

Here, too, were Georg Jensenís very personal gifts of jewelry for his four wives, eight children and other close family members. The last section of the exhibit narrowed the focus to Jensenís creation of designs that truly represented his concept of functionalism. Here the pieces were characterized by their exquisite shapes with minimal decorative elements. Having emerged from the period of Art Nouveau, one had a clear picture of how Jensen had moved with the times and indeed set the pace and standard for excellence in design. So many Silversmiths, worldwide, who saw Jensenís silver, have used Jensenís designs for inspiration.

During the last 10 years of his life, Jensen had set up a small smithy in the basement of his own home in Hellerup. Most of the items shown here were made in his home smithy and then signed with his signature, confirming their provenance.


Courtesy Georg Jensen Society Brooch #96A and earrings Amber & Agate gift from Georg Jensen to wife, Agnes 1912

The warmth of the display in a home-like setting and the personal presence of members of the family who acted as docents, made this a memorable and illuminating experience. Our family had the pleasure of being led through the exhibit by Morten Moller Georg Jensen, (Great Grandson of Georg Jensen), whose knowledge and kindness made us feel very much at home in the Museum.

In summary these two exhibitions demonstrated two very exceptional aspects relating to Jensen. The States Museum showed the virtuosity and evolution of the parent firm through these one hundred years. Necessarily, it shows not only Jensenís work but that of the other noted designers associated with the Smithy.

The family exhibition on the other hand offered one a unique insight into the amazing versatility of Georg Jensen in sculpture, ceramics and finally in silver. He will be known forever as one of the worldís finest craftsmen of silver. Jensenís designs continue to be admired for their timeless beauty and high quality of workmanship. In so many ways Jensenís elegant silver has a way of calling out to people and saying "Take me Home!"


About the authors:

Caryl Rose Unger and her husband, retired surgeon, Harold M. Unger M.D. have been avid researchers into the work of Georg Jensen for 40 years. They are assisted by their Grand-son Jamie Unger Fink who helps extensively with their computer and photography. He currently attends the University of Florida as a Freshman.

They operate an Antique business Imagination Unlimited, in Miami Beach, Florida specializing in the work of Georg Jensen and other Danish silversmiths. In addition to many publications they have lectured extensively on the Jensen story. Their interest has spread through their family and they are assisted by their children and now Grand children in both their work and their research.


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