Sunday, June 28, 2009

Furniture Designer - Verner Panton Posted by Julie Davenport

VERNER PANTON (1926-1998) was a master of the fluid, futuristic style of 1960s design which introduced the Pop aesthetic to furniture and interiors. Born in Denmark, he made his name there before settling in Switzerland in the 1960s.

During the ‘Beat’ years of the mid-1950s, young European artists and writers bought battered old camper vans to travel across the continent. One of the oddest-looking of these vans was the Volkswagen belonging to Verner Panton, a young Danish architect, who had customised it into a mobile studio.

Every few months, Panton set off from Copenhagen in the Volkswagen for a trek across Europe dropping in on fellow designers as well as any manufacturers or distributors which he hoped would buy his work. Famed like the rest of Scandinavia for its organic modernist designs, Denmark was then at the centre of the contemporary design scene. Yet Verner Panton’s style could not have been more different from the soft, naturalistic forms and materials which were the hallmarks of Danish modernism. He knew that he would have to look further afield to win acceptance for his work.

Panton had close links with many of the most important Danish designers of that era. Pøul Henningsen, the lighting designer, had taught him at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Art. After graduating, he had worked for Denmark’s architectural grandee, Arne Jacobsen. Panton also enjoyed a close friendship with designer-craftsman, Hans Wegner. But whereas Wegner was famed for his skill at modernising classic Danish teak chairs, Panton’s passion lay in experiments with plastics and other rapidly advancing man-made materials to create vibrant colours in the geometric forms of Pop Art.

Nothing in Verner Panton’s childhood suggested that he might become a designer. Born in 1926 to innkeeper parents in Gantofte, a tiny village on the island of Fünen, he longed to become a artist, but showed little talent for painting or drawing. Despite this, he won a place at the technical college in Odense, the largest town on the island, in 1944. Denmark was then occupied by the Germans and Panton joined the resistance. Towards the end of World War II, he spent several months in hiding after a cache of weapons was found in his room. After completing his studies in Odense, Panton moved to Copenhagen in 1947 to enrol as an architecture student.

Panton Chair, 1968 Design: Verner Panton Manufacturer: Vitra

Wire chairs and Moon Lamp,
Design: Verner Panton
© Marianne Panton

Flying Chairs, 1964
Design: Verner Panton
Manufacturer: Herman Miller/Vitra
© Poul Ib Henriksen

Furniture System, 1973
Design: Verner Panton
Manufacturer: Fritz Hansen
© Marianne Panton


1926 Born in Gamtofte on the island of Fünen, Denmark to innkeeper parents.

1944 Moves to Odense, also on Fünen, to enrol at the Technical College. Becomes involved with the Danish resistance against the German occupation.

1947 Starts an architecture degree at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Arts.

1950 As an assistant to the architect, Arne Jacobsen, works on the Ant Chair.

1955 Fritz Hansen launches Panton’s first mass-produced pieces of furniture, the Tivoli Chair and Bachelor Chair.

1957 Designs a self-assembly weekend home to be sold as a limited edition.

1958 Opening of Komigen restaurant, designed by Panton for his parents, is an instant hit, as is the Cone Chair he created for it.

1960 Develops first inflatable chair and designs the Astoria Hotel in Norway.

1961 Panton’s furniture, textiles and lights published in Mobilia’s "Black Book".

1963 Moves to Basel (after a short stint in Cannes) with Marianne Person-Oertenheim. Begins collaboration with Herman Miller-Vitra in Basel.

1964 Flying Chairs and Shell Lamps create a furore at Cologne Furniture Fair.

1965 Unveils S Chair, first cantilevered moulded plywood chair, for Thonet. Starts work on the Panton Chair with Herman Miller-Vitra launched in 1968.

1969 Living Towers unveiled in Paris. Spiegel headquarters completed.

1970 Designs fantastical Visiona II exhibition for Bayer at Cologne Fair.

1973 Completes work on the interior of Grüner & Jahr’s offices in Hamburg.

1990 Vitra puts the Panton Chair back into production.

1994 IKEA produces Panton’s Vilbert Chair as the Panton revival takes off.

1995 Panton Chair appears on the cover of British Vogue.

1998 Verner Panton dies in Copenhagen 12 days before the opening of his Light and Colour retrospective at the Trapholtmuseum in Kolding, Denmark.

2000 Verner Panton: Light and Colour opens at Vitra Design Museum, Weil-am-Rhein, and the Design Museum.

© Design Museum


  1. thorough and interesting post

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