Carl Harry Stålhane (1920 - 1990) is one of the most prominent figures in the Swedish ceramics movement, and one of our favourites. In this post we want to give particular attention to the period in Stålhanes career that we belive is his best and the one that most clearly shows his artistic expression.
All items shown below are unique and made in the mid 1960s. In the spring of 1960 Carl-Harry Stålhane showed stoneware at Galleri Blanche in Stockholm, an exhibition that was a manifestation of the coming of a ceramic counter-movement. "Here are the ceramics of the 60’s :heavy, primitive, rugged, dramatic," said Ulf Hard af Segerstad (Svenska Dagbladet, 29.4.60) and described Stålhane's vessels as a declaration of love for the natural materials in the plastics age.
In the early 1960's Stålhane drove his art towards larger sizes and created rock walls in clay: Handelsbanken headoffice 1961, SAAB, Linköping, 1963, Commerce Tower in Kansas City in 1964, Volvo's headquarters in 1967 - a wonderful landscape of the iron road from the mine to the car. The Volvo wall is one of the largest ceramic works ever and maybe Stålhanes best effort at all. During this same period Stålhane's unique studio-ceramics evolved from slender and elegant pieces to the crude, dark drama with fallout of molten rock. The fine mist of the spray gun was replaced by a pouring of glaze, filling the cut surfaces of the vessels.
The greatest chair ever made
Which is the best and most beautiful chair in the world? Many would argue that the armchair, known as JH-501/503, ‘The round chair’ or simply ‘The chair’, by chair maker extraordinaire Hans J Wegner have a strong claim at that title.
This chair have all the qualities that make Scandinavian furniture design great and it is probably the single most important piece of furniture of it's time. At the cabinetmakers guild in 1949 Hans J Wegner, as always (1940-1966) exhibiting with cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen, presented the model JH-501/503 or 'the round chair'. Even in 1949, great things were expected from the Wegner design studio and this chair certainly meets the expectations. The critics loved it and deemed it an instant classic.
To make things even better American Interiors magazine featured the round chair on the cover and called it 'the World's most beautiful chair’. Apart from making the Round chair into an
international star over night. This also catapulted Wegner and the concept of Danish design into international fame. From now on, the Round chair became known simply as ‘the chair’. It's most
famous appearance came with the televised 1961 presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy. For this debate JFK, who was suffering from a bad back, requested specially to use
The chair is designed to allow the user to move around, change positions and to keep the blood flowing while seated. As many of Wegner's designs, the chair is made from solid pieces of wood. Wegner argues that using bentwood would lose the beauty of the inherent properties of the wood. Of the design Wegner himself have said,
-“many foreigners have asked me how we made the Danish style. And I've answered that it...was rather a continuous process of purification, and for me, of simplification, to cut down to the
simplest possible elements of four legs, a seat and combined top rail and arm rest.", and, -"The chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with."
The chair has been in continuous production since 1949, from either Johs. Hansen or PP-Möbler (from 1990), available in Oak, Teak, Ash, Mahogany and Cherry (rumour has it that a very limited number has been made as a custom order in Rosewood) with seat in rattan or upholstered in leather or fabric. Despite its popularity, only 200-300 pieces are made every year and an estimated 20,000 total in the 60 years of production. Quality does come at a price and the chair is not cheap. However, you need to consider it a lifetime investment; ‘the chair’ will most probably outlast you, and live on in your family for generations to come.
The chair is still the obvious choice for all sorts of official events f.ex the Danish royal family use it regularly and it was recently used at the Copenhagen climate meeting. ‘The chair’ is a given piece of furniture in museum collections all over the world and is even featured on Danish Stamps.
Here is a brief introduction of another personal favourite. Hertha Hillfon can, alongside Anders Bruno Liljefors be said to be a pioneer of modern Swedish ceramic free sculpture. In my opinion HH
is one of the most important exponents of Swedish ceramic art and one of the most influential female artists in Sweden during the 20th century. Her work is distinctive and highly personal, made
of earthenware or stoneware, sometimes in seemingly simple shapes, grand lines, and little detail. Sometimes eagerly kneaded, rolled, or nervously cut and assembled from small pieces. Sometimes
with colourful glazes, but often completely unglazed. Her works range from everyday objects in the form of bowls, jugs and even furniture, she produces her own household ceramics, to tender and
expressive sculptures and masks of her family and Other significant people in her life.
For long periods, she has worked only with public commissions in colossal format. Often her Pieces are not named nor signed, she considers comments to them redundant, the works speak for themselves, or remain an enigma. Artists such as Edgar Böckman, who was also her teacher at the Konstfack School 1953-57, Patrick Nordstrom, Wilhelm Kåge, Tyra Lundgren and Anders Bruno Liljefors can be said to represent the quality craftsmanship and artistic imagination that preceded what HH showed at her first appearance at the Swedish handicrafts association exhibition ’Form i centrum’1958.
Her pieces attracted considerable attention and some annoyance. About HH's first solo exhibition at Gallery Artek in 1959, Ulf Hård af Segerstad, Sweden's foremost critic at the time, writes that she has "claimed a new ceramic turf alongside the traditional, more unproven, maybe a tad uncertain, but certainly exciting, free, sculptural ceramics ". Critics often refer to HH as a sculptor, while she has Always refered to herself as a ceramist first and foremost.
Since the exhibition at Artek in 1959, she has done hundreds of solo exhibitions, the last being a major retrospective exhibition at Waldemars udde in 2007. Through the years she has been appreciated with many awards and honours, amongst Otters she has won the Lunning Prize and been named a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, as one of very few women. HH's works are on display in many public places in Sweden as well as at art museums worldwide. Her work appears occasionally on auctions but most of the best Pierces are in the hands of private collectors or museums. Some she has kept for herself, and some you'll find in Studio gallery.