Thursday, May 30, 2013

Made in Sweden: 20th Century Design

In celebration of Memphis in May and its honored country Sweden, The Brooks Museum has an exhibit show-casing Swedish design in the 20th century. I wish I could find a way to link to a stable page for this exhibit, but the Brooks web site defeats me at every turn. from the Brooks:
... Good design had long been promoted by the Swedish Society of Industrial Design (SSID), founded in 1845. At the end of the 19th century, as people moved from the country to cities, the SSID increased its efforts to improve living standards. Because Sweden did not participate in World War I, the productive relationship between industry and design continued unabated.

Between the wars, Swedish glass came to be recognized for its elegance and sophistication. Examples here include the blue vase by Simon Gate made at Orrefors in the 193os. Stig Lindberg’s nesting, oven-proof “Gefyr” bowls exemplify the simplicity and practicality that was emphasized for everyday use. Sven Palmqvist is represented by his “Fuga,” “Colora,” and “Ravenna” series;

Soon after the war, plastic gained in prominence as a new and attractive material for everyday utensils. The porcelain factory of Gustavsberg was among the pioneers in producing the material on a large scale.

The objects in this exhibition are all on loan from the Röhsska Museum for Design and Decorative Arts which opened in 1916. The museum, funded by the Röhss brothers and operated by the City of Gothenburg, is Sweden's only museum specializing in design.
My favorites are these works by Stig Lindberg:

1) Spisa Ribb pattern from 1955. The exhibit had a cup and saucer, a plate, and a creamer and sugar bowl

photo from Wikipedia

2) Tahiti pattern cup and saucer from 1971

photo from Pinterest

and 3) a set of 3 blue nesting "Gefyr" bowls from 1952. I can't find pictures of those online, and I never take photos in museums.

The Rohsska Museum, which loaned us the pieces, has some interesting exhibits listed at their web site. Evil Design sounds unusual.


  1. Really like that first cup/saucer. Evil Design made me laugh. There a designer out there who is known for the use of skulls. Can't think of the name at the moment. Don't wear skulls so didn't pay that much attention.


  2. What awesome cups and saucers. I remember from the time I was quite young, to the day they died, my Grandparents (who raised me) had modern looking and functional Scandinavian furniture. I vowed when I grew up and was out on my own, I would own only Victorian era quartersawn oak. It's amazing what we learn from our parents.

    Now I don't mind what I call mid-century modern. At the time, I hated it.

  3. Wow! Sweden is really getting a lot of attention in Memphis!

    Röhsska is a wonderful museum. My sister lives in Gothenburg and I have visited it several times, even that famous Kaffe Fassett exhibition, which was amazing.

    I wish I could point you to a good site with lots of pictures of Swedish design, but there doesn´t seem to be anything but references to books. Considering how proud we are of our reputation and our style, that´s a bit embarrassing...

  4. darla, yes, i was really struck by that first one. i don't wear skull jewelry either, but some of it looks attractively medieval when i see it on other folks.

  5. bleubeard and elizabeth, i grew up with a mother who focused on early american style. it feels homey to me, but i don't tend to be attracted to that style when i'm in the furniture stores. mid-century modern seems to be all the rage now.

  6. viktoria, every year as a part of our memphis in may festival we honor a foreign country. there's a large educational component aimed at the schools, and there are always free exhibits scattered around. i had hoped this design exhibit would include some furniture, but it didn't. there are a couple more exhibits i wanted to see -on on lappland, i think, and one on raoul wallenberg; but this is the last day and i may miss them.