1950s & 1960s
Graphic Motifs

Fabrics
1950s-1960s
Graphic Motifs
The patterns that Arne Jacobsen designed in the 1950s and 1960s had a simple, graphic expression inspired by modern art.
YEAR:
1950s-1960s
DESIGN:
Arne Jacobsen
Trapez, approximately 1952. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Arne Jacobsen designed a range of textile patterns that were used on furnishing fabrics. Many of the patterns were also used in his architecture projects. Unlike the free, naturalist patterns he had designed during the time around the Second World War, these later patterns were strictly geometrical with a simple, graphic expression inspired by modern art.

In his large public and private architectural commissions Arne Jacobsen not only designed the architectural structure. He created comprehensive total designs with custom-designed furniture, lamps, fittings, plantings and, in many cases, custom-designed textile patterns. In some of his most comprehensive and significant commissions, such as the Munkegaard School from 1957 and SAS Royal Hotel (now Radisson Collection Royal Hotel) from 1960, patterned textiles are an important part of the larger, closely coordinated whole.

ARNE (originally titled Mushrooms). Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.

After returning from his war-time exile in Sweden in 1945, Arne Jacobsen continued to design patterns concurrent with his architectural practice. Over the 1950s, his patterns became increasingly abstract, featuring geometric shapes and repetitions of simple figures. The patterns Trapez (approximately 1952) and ARNE (originally titled Mushrooms) are examples of patterns from the early 1950s based on a simple, strong figure that is repeated throughout the surface.

A room at SAS Royal Hotel around the opening in 1960. Photo: Arne Jacobsen. Original is found at the Royal Danish Library - Danish National Art Library.

In some of Arne Jacobsen's most comprehensive and significant commissions, such as the Munkegaard School from 1957 and SAS Royal Hotel from 1960, patterned textiles are an important part of the larger, closely coordinated whole.

Semicircles, designed by Arne Jacobsen approximately 1960. Arne Jacobsen designed this pattern for the curtains and the bedspread in the hotel rooms at SAS Royal Hotel. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.

During the 1960s, Arne Jacobsen designed a whole series of patterns with modern, abstract motifs that were launched commercially as home furnishing textiles by the company Cotil (C. Olesen Textiles). The series features taut, graphic designs reflecting the contemporary taste and developments in modern visual art. In patterns such as Ranker (Vines) and Kvast (Tassel) it is easy to see how Arne Jacobsen still used nature as his source of inspiration, while other patterns, such as Polygon, Vertigo and Ypsilon (Epsilon), are based on a simple, geometric figure.

Kvast (Tassel), approximately 1963. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.
Ranker (Vines), approximately 1963. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.
Polygon, approximately 1963. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.
Ypsilon, approximately 1963. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design

In patterns such as Ranker and Kvast it is easy to see how Arne Jacobsen still used nature as his source of inspiration, while other patterns, such as Polygon, Vertigo and Ypsilon, are based on a simple, geometric figure.

Arne Jacobsen’s furnishing of the SAS Royal Hotel stands as a principal accomplishment in Danish design history and testimony to his unique ability to compose large, perfectly coordinated wholes. The total design also included a number of patterned textiles, all designed by Arne Jacobsen, as were the hotel’s furniture and lighting.

The hotel rooms featured the Swan and the Egg, upholstered with the mottled grey fabric Regn (Rain), and bedspreads and curtains in the pattern Semi-circles – all of it carefully coordinated with the room’s overall greenish blue and greyish colour scheme. In the restaurant, green Giraffe chairs stood against the backdrop of a semi-transparent fabric in a chequered pattern woven with gold thread. Throughout the building, rugs with custom-designed patterns contributed to the wealth of shapes, colours, patterns and materials characterizing the original hotel interior in 1960.

Stage curtain in the assembly hall at the Munkegaard School. Photo: Arne Jacobsen. Original at the Royal Danish Library - Danish National Art Library.

A few years earlier, in 1957, Arne Jacobsen had completed the Munkegaard School, where he had created a total design with an emphasis on aesthetics, learning and a good physical environment for the pupils. For the bright classrooms he designed new, lightweight furniture, while the private courtyard gardens associated with the individual classrooms featured special plantings and plaster casts of classic works of art. Instead of the traditional choice of decorating the school’s assembly hall with a painting or a sculpture, he designed a large woven stage curtain with a graphic pattern in bright colours. The stage curtain was woven by Kirsten and John Becker, who also produced the semi-transparent curtain in the same pattern in a monochrome version that was hung in front of the hall’s north-facing window and completed the holistic impression.

 

Sources: Arne Jacobsen Design Archives. / Arne Jacobsen’s drawings. The collection of architectural drawings, The Royal Library – Danish Art Library. / Arne Jacobsen’s scrapbooks. The Royal Library – Danish Art Library. / Sheridan, M. (2003). Room 606: The SAS House and the Work of Arne Jacobsen. London: Phaidon Press / Stenum Poulsen, K., Skaarup Larsen, A., & Staunsager, S. (2020). Arne Jacobsen – Designing Denmark. Kolding: Trapholt.  / Thau, C., & Vindum, K. (1998). Arne Jacobsen. Copenhagen: Danish Architectural Press. / Tøjner, P. E., & Vindum, K. (1994).

The large, monochrome woven curtain monochrome version that hung in front of the assembly hall’s north-facing window at the Munkegaard School. Photo: Arne Jacobsen. Original at the Royal Danish Library - Danish National Art Library.
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