Karl Gustav Hansen (1914-2002)

Karl Gustav Hansen was one of Denmark’s most distinguished silversmiths of the Scandinavian Modern period. He created modernist designs of superb quality that influenced the direction of modernist silver in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. Under his leadership, the Hans Hansen firm employed some of Denmark’s best known silversmiths, including Bent Knudsen, Allan Scharff and Bent Gabrielsen. Throughout his 60 year long career, he stayed with the traditional, hand driven way of creating hollowware, even though the industry turned to new automated techniques. He did not want to become a subordinate to the limitations of machines and always strived to grown and excel as an artisan.

Karl Gustav Hansen was son of the renowned silversmith Hans Hansen (1884-1940), who had established his silversmithy in the town of Kolding in 1920. Karl Gustav Hansen started as an apprentice in his father’s workshop in 1930, for Einar Olsen, who had been recruited from Georg Jensen the same year. His career began in an exciting time, when concrete forms had to make way for abstract ones with the emergence of functionalism. His hollowware was met with acclaim and proved commercially successful. During this early period he created the church silver for Nørre Bjert Kirke in Kolding. 

During Karl Gustav Hansen’s apprentice’s years, Hans Hansen launched the firm’s jewelry branch for the first time. Karl Gustav Hansen’s early jewelry designs broke new ground with their pure geometric forms, where strict lines were balanced with unexpected angles, turns and compositions with semi-precious stones. In 1932, Hans Hansen commissioned his son to create a new line of jewelry and Karl Gustav Hansen subsequently proposed more than 50 new designs. All were intended to be hand produced, although the father’s plan had been for the jewelry to be made by machine. The ”Future” series was born – a line of avantgarde, geometric and balanced designs that also launched Karl Gustav Hansen as a jewelry designer of major influence. 

Following his apprenticeship, Karl Gustav Hansen studied for Einar Utzon-Frank at Kunstakademiets Billedhuggerskole from 1935 to 1938. Simultaneously, he worked in the Hans Hansen workshop, which had then moved to Copenhagen. Hans Hansen died unexpectedly in 1940 and Karl Gustav had to take on the role as CEO and creative leader at an early age. It was a rough start in a difficult time of war and German occupation, but the company made it through. After the war, the business grew under Karl Gustav Hansen’s leadership. He also served as guest professor at the University of Indiana in 1959, while simultaneously opening more shops, some in collaboration with Anton Michelsen. 

In 1953, Bent Gabrielsen was recruited just out of Guldsmedehøjskolen (The Goldsmith’s College), where Karl Gustav Hansen was one of the examiners. He became lead designer for the jewelry line, and eventually executive manager, remaining at Hans Hansen until 1969. While Bent Gabrielsen was at the firm, Karl Gustav Hansen almost did not design any jewelry, but returned to this area after 1969. The jewelry from the late 1960s and 1970s is expressive, geometric and sculptural, as well as functionally excellently made and easy to wear. 

Through turbulent years and collaborations with sculptors such as Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick in the 1970s, Karl Gustav Hansen remained as CEO and designer at Hans Hansen until 1987. Hans Hansen eventually merged with Georg Jensen in 1992.

Karl Gustav Hansen participated at the World Exhibitions in Brussels 1935, Paris in 1937, New York in 1939 and 1964, among other exhibitions. He is represented at Kunstindustrimuseum in Copenhagen, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among others. 

Literature: Karl Gustav Hansen. Sølv/Silber 1930–1994. Poul Dedenroth-Schou. © Museet på Koldinghus, Kolding, 1994

Erik Höglund (1932-1998)

Erik Höglund was one of Sweden’s foremost glass artists, whose innovative designs and glass making techniques revolutionized the scene of both art glass and serve ware in the 1950s. His bold and personal designs gave him and the glassworks Boda worldwide acclaim. Erik Höglund is considered the most influential Swedish glass artist of the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Ingeborg Lundin.

Höglund was admitted to the prestigious school Konstfack at the age of 16, first studying to become an art teacher, but later changing to the sculptor’s line. He rebelled against many of what he considered to be conventional ideas at the school, and was almost expelled. His nonconformism would follow him through his career, aiding him in following his own path and repeatedly breaking new ground.

Erik Höglund started working at Boda glassworks in 1953. At the time, Boda focused on producing high-quality serve ware in ethereal, cut-glass designs under the direction of Fritz Kallenberg. Höglund brought new perspectives and ideas, experimenting with the glass mass to give it a bubbly look and introducing colored glass and irregular finishes. These ideas were in direct opposition to the traditional ideas of what quality glass is, and Höglund was initially met with skepticism. He created rustic designs that allowed for everyday, multiple uses of glass, allowing it to be both functional and aesthetic. This down-to-earth idea appealed to both critics and collectors, although it took some years into the 1950s to win over the general public. In 1955, Erik Höglund’s glass was presented at the H55 Exhibition and one of his vases, whilst considered scandalous due to its suggestive decor, was purchased by the Swedish king. In 1957 he was awarded the Lunning Prize, its until then youngest awardee. Following that, his glass was exhibited in the Georg Jensen store on 5th Avenue in New York, making Erik Höglund and Boda world renowned.

Erik Höglund was a master of all artistic trades. His glass murals were an important part of his artistic deed, leading to many assignments of public decorations, around Sweden in churches, schools, banks and other public places, as well as in the United States and Australia. In the early 1960s he also started working with wrought iron, making chandeliers and candelabras, combined with glass or unadorned, that became hugely popular. Boda opened its own smithy, Boda Smide, to satisfy the demand. Höglund also worked with wood, creating rustic and playful children’s furniture, candle holders and beds.

Höglund left Boda in 1973 and worked with public assignments, often in collaboration with architects and his wife Ingrid Höglund. He continued to work with glass throughout the years for Pukeberg, Lindshammar and Strömbergshyttan glass works. He was was an incredibly productive artist, creating 150 public works from 1956 into the 1990s. Life cycles, sports and acrobatics, everyday life and family relationships were recurring sources of inspiration. Among his most notable work is the decoration of Johannelund Church in Linköping, which consisted of murals, glass sections, furnishing and the church silver. His work is represented by a permanent exhibition at Blekinge Länsmuseum and, among others, at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Röhsska museet in Gothenburg, Bellerive Kunstgewerbemuseum in Zürich and Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in New York.

Literature: Från Boda till New York, konstnären Erik Höglund. Gunnel Holmér. Carlssons Bokförlag, 1986

Poul Havgaard (1936 – 2011)

Poul Havgaard joined Lapponia, the Finnish jewelry maker founded by Björn Weckström and Pekka Anttila, in 1971. Before this he had worked as a designer at Swedish ceramic studio Rörstrand from 1958 to 1960, and from 1960 onward in his own studio in Denmark. During a period 1969-1973, he also worked as a designer for French fashion house Pierre Cardin. At Lapponia, his designs continued in the company’s tradition of bold, sculptural pieces, but with an added crudeness to the finish. This perhaps due to his background as a blacksmith and sculptor. Contrast and organic flows are characteristic for his jewelry, and Havgaard often worked with kinetic designs. In this way, the jewelry is both seen and worn in movement, and becomes a part of the person wearing it.

Literature: Illustrated catalogue. Lapponia Jewelry, 1980

Hans Hansen (firm) 1906-1992

Furniture-making and silverware were the greatest assets when Danish design was launched on the international scene after World War II. Danish jewelry became world-leading in the 1950s thanks to well-known architects and designers like Nanna Ditzel and George Jensen. During the 1960s, the international revitalization of artistic jewelry was particularly felt in Denmark. One of the best expressions of this movement is seen in the jewelry made by firm Hans Hansen.

Hans Hansen founded his studio in silversmith-town Kolding in 1906. Initially they made only flatware, but in the 1930s the firm begun to make sleek, modernist silver jewelry under the direction of Hans Hansen’s son, Karl Gustav Hansen. Karl Gustav was a true talent in the trade, and by 20 he had already gained national recognition by receiving a silver medal, a Danish distinction of excellence, for his work in silver. Karl Gustav Hansen went on to sculpture studies and travels through Europe during a time of much political turbulence between the wars. Both influences can be seen in his jewelry, with its sculptural and daring qualities.

After his father died in 1940, Karl Gustav, at the time only 25, took over the firm. He started by creating a collection of jewelry called “Future”, setting the tome for Hansen modernism during the decades to follow. Hansen employed several up-and-coming silversmiths, among others Bent Gabrielsen and Bent Knudsen, who both went on to become highly successful modernists in their own right in the 1960s.

After the war in 1945, Karl Gustav went traveling again, but this time to the United States. Hansen reconnected with his father’s old contacts, and after a successful business trip, he flew home in the first trans-Atlantic passenger flight. During the 1960s, Hans Hansen expanded its business, and by the 1970s, Karl Gustav Hansen collaborated with sculptors such as Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick. In the 1980s the times caught up with Hansen, and the type of labor-intensive quality art-jewelry produced by the firm was deemed un-economic. In 1992, Hans Hansen reluctantly merged with the larger consortium Georg Jensen.