|Henning Koppel is responsible for what we have come to think of as "Danish design."|
Koppel was an earlier pioneer of functionalism in design: his mission was to make everyday life products beautiful as well as practical. He was trained as a sculptor and began collaborating with Georg Jensen in 1946.
Henning Koppel is born to a wealthy Jewish family and showed an early talent for art, leading him to train in both drawing and aquarelle early on. He continued studies in sculpture at the Royal Danish Academy and later in Paris. His superb drafting skills, developed as a child, helped him in to produce outstanding product renderings of his designs. Even on their own, they form an exceptional body of work.
Like many Danish Jews, Koppel fled to Sweden during the Second World War. At 27, he returned and began working at Georg Jensen, which marked his start in jewellery, hollowware and flatware design. His first works – a series of necklaces and linked bracelets resembling whale vertebrae and microscopic organisms - were small masterpieces in imaginative modelling. Henning Koppel was in every way groundbreaking and his jewellery was unlike anything ever created at the silver smithy in its first 40 years.
When Henning Koppel died in 1981, aged 63, he had created an astonishing range of work: from stainless steel cutlery such as "New York" which found its way into the homes of millions, to magnificent one-off signature pieces such as the silver and crystal chandelier he designed to celebrate the 75-year anniversary of Georg Jensen in 1979.
During his life, he won many awards including the Milan Triennial, the International Design Award and the Lunning Prize. Accolades are important, but what means even more to us is that people still choose to wear a watch by Henning Koppel or to serve coffee from one of his pots. The integrity and appeal of his designs remain vital and undiminished.
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In 1904 the Danish silversmith Georg Jensen founded his first modest silver smithy in the heart of Copenhagen. Thirty years later, he had made an international name for himself. When he died in 1935, the New York Herald Tribune saluted him as "the greatest silversmith of the last 300 years."
Georg Jensen was unique among silversmiths because he was as devoted to art as he was to craftsmanship. He had intimate knowledge of materials and brought this experience to bear on all of his designs.
One of the most important parts of his legacy was that he was not satisfied just to realize his own talent. He went a step further and created a tradition, an inspiring and demanding framework for creative artists and proud craftsmen. Today, Georg Jensen encompasses more than just the man; the name is now a concept synonymous with excellent Danish design throughout the world.
In his early years, Jensen was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau style. He made it his own, though, by combining the sculptor's strong, free lines with the silversmith's intuitive feel for the material. His works are characterized by his fertile, creative imagination, and his capacity to innovate new styles. It has been said of Georg Jensen that "he never followed fashion, he created it."
Following an exhibition at the Danish Museum of Decorative Arts in Autumn of 1904, Georg Jensen designs became fast favourites of Copenhagen's high society. As time went by he surrounded himself with a staff of talented colleagues, laying the foundation for a definite artistic and artisan morale.
Beginning in 1912, Danish expansion of the studio was underway. In 1917, Jensen built workshop large enough to hold hundreds of employees. By the time he had died in 1935, Georg Jensen was an international design house where inspired artisans were encouraged to carry on the tradition of mixing expert craftsmanship with forward-thinking design.