Through his work as an architect and teacher, Poul Kjærholm became an international design figure and key representative of modernism
Poul Kjærholm (1929 – 1980) combined his strict, modern idiom with an uncompromising approach to quality and materials rooted in Danish craftsmanship traditions. Despite his short career as a furniture designer, Kjærholm’s exquisite craftsmanship and clear expression resulted in timeless designs whose influence extended globally and well beyond his own lifetime.
Kjærholm became known for his modernist steel, leather and glass furniture. After training as a cabinetmaker, he studied furniture design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, graduating in 1952.
Kjærholm returned as a lecturer in 1955, succeeding Ole Wanscher as professor in 1976. He remained at the Academy until his death in 1980, influencing through his work and teaching both within and outside the Academy.
Just like Kaare Klint, Kjærholm removed unnecessary ornamentation in favor of clarity and function – the hallmarks in his work as both an educator and a designer. He avoided easy solutions and fads in his search for each material’s own language. Kjærholm’s linear aesthetic and expression were influenced by global pioneers such as Gerrit Rietveld, Mies van der Rohe and Charles and Ray Eames.
In the post-war years, Kjærholm distanced himself from the rounded, organic shapes of contemporary Danish design. As industrialization took off, Kjærholm felt that Denmark could only industrialize production if its products were technically superior to their traditionally crafted counterparts – he sought new ways to unite tradition and innovation.
Kjærholm's furniture is represented in many international museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His awards include the Lunning Award in 1958, the Eckersberg Medal in 1960, and multiple ID Prizes.