1940s
Plant Motifs

Fabrics
1940s
1940s Plant Motifs
A lesser-known part of Arne Jacobsen’s work is the patterns with lush, vibrant plant motifs that Arne Jacobsen created for textiles and wallpapers during the 1940s.
YEAR:
1940s
DESIGN:
Arne Jacobsen
Arne Jacobsen at his easel. Photo: Private.

From the early 1940s and throughout his war-time exile in Sweden, Arne Jacobsen created patterns for textiles and wallpapers based on lush, naturalist plant motifs. In these patterns, we encounter the artist and the botanist rather than the stringent modernist that Arne Jacobsen is often perceived as. Based on nature studies in the Swedish landscape, in his garden or in the area around his summer cottage at Gudmindrup Lyng, Arne Jacobsen created a series of plant patterns with an original and personal expression.

In the early 1940s, he had met Jonna Møller, who was a trained textile printer and who helped him translate his drawings and watercolours into printable patterns. They married in 1943, shortly after they had fled to Sweden from German-occupied Denmark. Many of his most lush and vibrant patterns date from his time in Sweden.

Kejserkrone (Crown Imperial), ca. 1948. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.

Based on nature studies in the Swedish landscape, in his garden or in the area around his summer cottage at Gudmindrup Lyng, Arne Jacobsen created a series of plant patterns with an original and personal expression.

During his stay in Sweden, Arne Jacobsen initiated a collaboration with the Stockholm department store Nordiska Kompaniet, which had a production of fabrics and wallpapers by leading Nordic designers. As early as the spring of 1944, this partnership resulted in a large exhibition, where Arne Jacobsen presented 16 finished patterns. The exhibition spanned from stylized, tautly composed patterns, such as ‘Persisk mønster’ (Persian pattern), to free, naturalist motifs, such as ‘Kløver’ (Clover) and ‘Kejserkrone’ (Crown Imperial), where the whole surface is filled out by exuberant plant environments. In these wild plant environments in particular, Arne Jacobsen found an original and personal expression unlike any other textile prints from this period.

 

Pennycress, 1944. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.
Bregner (Ferns), 1943. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.
Kløver (Clover), 1944. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.
Vegetation, 1944. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design.

As a young man, Arne Jacobsen dreamt of becoming an artist, and throughout his life he painted charming watercolours of images from his lush garden, the landscape around his summer cottage at Gudmindrup Lyng or travels in France and Italy.

As a young man, Arne Jacobsen dreamt of becoming an artist, and throughout his life he painted charming watercolours of images from his lush garden, the landscape around his summer cottage at Gudmindrup Lyng or travels in France and Italy. Plants were an important source of inspiration to him: ‘If I had a second life, I would be a gardener,’ Arne Jacobsen often said, and his passion for botany is evident in his watercolours and pattern designs.

When Arne Jacobsen returned to Denmark after the liberation in 1945 he continued to design new, colourful patterns. Initially, these patterns were based on naturalist representations of nature, like the earlier ones, but towards the end of the decade, his expression became more abstract. These latter patterns point towards the strict geometric patterns that Arne Jacobsen designed during the 1950s and 1960s, which draw more on inspiration from modern art. However, nature and the world around him remain his key source of inspiration.

 

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. / Pedersen, J. (1954). Arkitekten Arne Jacobsen. Copenhagen: Danish Architectural 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.

Hyacinths, approximately 1948. Photo: Arne Jacobsen Design
Hyacinter (Hyacinths), 1948
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