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Anna Petrus was a Swedish sculptor, industrial designer and dancer with a unique, powerful artistic expression, renowned for her designs for Svenskt Tenn. She came from a wealthy family in Uppsala and got her education at Chelsea School of Art in London, Althins målarskola and Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Royal Institute of Art) in Stockholm. Following her studies she worked with materials such as granite, marble and iron, inspired by by Greek mythology in her creations. She developed a distinct style, where women from the myths were rendered strong and assertive rather than passive and weak. She was part of a group of female artists, among them Siri Derkert, who fought for space in the conservative and male dominated art world.
She debuted with a set of linoleum prints at the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö in 1914 and again in Stockholm in 1916 with sculptures with her characteristic expression. In 1920 a fire in her studio destroyed most of her works, and became a turning point in her artistic career. Recuperating from the blow, she travelled to Italy and North Africa, looking for new inspiration. When she returned to Stockholm, she started working with pewter, a material that at the time was looked upon as an old-fashioned and base material. She made trays and table tops inspired by North African smoking tables, and soon started collaborating with the influential architect Uno Åhrén around the designs.
Anna Petrus was one of the earliest and most prominent revivers of using pewter in industrial design and her contribution made a big mark. She worked with the firms Herman Bergman’s Konsgjuteri and Svenskt Tenn during the 1920s, creating her iconic sculptural lion designs, many of which are produced by Svenskt Tenn to this day. During this period she was also commissioned several prestigious decorating assignments in collaboration with the architect Carl Bergsten, among others. She withdrew from the design scene in 1930, perhaps due to the emergence of functionalism, that had less room for her dynamic style. However, her artistry has prevailed and is now as highly acclaimed as ever.
Litterature: Anna Petrus. Skulptör och industrikonstnär. Marie Rehnberg. Signum, 2009
Carl-Harry Stålhane was one of the stars among Swedish ceramic artists during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, whose designs are just as highly regarded and sought-after by collectors today. He was born in Mariestad, close to Lidköping where the Rörstrand stoneware factory was located. He early expressed artistic aptitude as an amateur actor and illustrator, and in spite of lack of support from his father, he looked for work at Rörstrand which was the area’s creative hub. Stålhane began work at Rörstrand as an eighteen year old, decorating stoneware vases. His remarkable talent was noticed by Isaac Grünewald who was at Rörstrand as a guest artist, and who made Stålhane his assistant. Stålhane subsequently went on to study painting at Grünewald’s school in Stockholm and sculpture at Academie Colarossi in Paris.
At Rörstrand, where he was employed from 1939 to 1973, Stålhane designed unique stoneware, serially produced decorative items and tableware, large public decorations and sculptures. He was an innovator who drove forward the evolvement of ceramic artistry and design, from the slender, graphic vases of the 1950s to the brutal, expressive style of the 1960s, deeply influencing his contemporaries. He was instrumental to Rörstrand as a creative leader and brand representative, and his work and magnetic personality were fundamental in maintaining the company’s status. From 1963 to 1971 he was head teacher in ceramics and glass at Konstindustriskolan in Gothenburg, making his mark in a new generation of ceramicists and artists. In 1973 he ended his employment at Rörstrand due to the changing landscape in the industry where artistic freedom had to give increasing way to market forces. He then founded the ceramic studio Designhuset, where he and a team of other artists and throwers designed and produced stoneware in a smaller scale compared to Rörstrand but with greater freedom. Stålhane worked at Designhuset until his death in 1990.
Carl-Harry Stålhane had 37 separate exhibitions of his work during his career between the years 1948 and 1990 and he received many prestigious awards, among them a Gold Medal at the Milano Triennial in 1955. His work is represented in many museums, among them Nationalmuseum, Röhsska muséet, MoMA and Victoria & Albert Museum. Aside from his work with ceramics, he also worked as an interior designer and creative lead for VARA-bolagen, a company that owned and administered a chain of hotels and restaurants in the southwestern part of Sweden.
Literature: Stålhane. Petter Eklund. Carlsson, 2006
Sylvia Stave was a fascinating representative of Swedish mid-century design with her immaculate, sober designs that lead her to become lead designer of the firm C. G. Hallberg as a 23 year old in 1931. She worked for C. G. Hallberg for ten years before suddenly quitting her trade completely and settling down as a house wife in Paris.
Literature: Kvinnliga pionjärer – Svensk form under mellankrigstiden. Magnus Olausson & Micael Ernstell. Nationalmuseum, 2015
Alf Svensson was creative director at Bergboms, which was a successful Swedish lighting firm which manufactured both own designs and – thanks to Svensson’s international connections – those of international designers such as Greta Grossman and Edward Wormley. He was also creative director at the furniture company Ljungs industrier which Bergboms was tied to. Alf Svensson was an architect with sure instinct for new trends which can be seen in his own designs as well as in those of the designers Bergboms collaborated with.
Elias Svedberg was an architect and designer with a long career at NK, starting in the mid-1940s when he and Lena Larsson started developing the very successful “Triva” concept. The idea suggested that quality furniture were to be sold in flat packages and assembled by the customer – a concept that spanned decades and was a forerunner to other successful businesses picking up on the idea. Svedberg was the head of NK’s interior design department from 1952 to 1961 and together with Lena Larsson he wrote the classic book “Heminredning” (“Home interior design”). The book is pervaded by a strong incentive to educate and cultivate the reader in creating a pleasant and practical home.
Sven Staaf was originally from Stockholm and worked there as an architect for some years before moving to Helsingborg in southern Sweden where he established his own firm, Almgren & Staaf. Almgren & Staaf was a successful furniture and interior decoration firm from the 1940s to the 1960s, attracting customers mainly among the upper middle class in Skåne. In 1955 Staaf participated in the international exhibition for architecture and design, H55, in Helsingborg, where he both exhibited his furniture and designed some of the public areas, such as restaurants.
Staaf’s furniture was seen as progressive and edgy and he was able to expand with stores in several Swedish cities. His stores were later bought by and merged into Nordiska Kompaniet (NK).
Otto Schulz was a furniture designer, interior designer, editor and owner of the renowned furniture and interior decoration firm BOET, which he started in Gothenburg in 1920s and ran for 30 years. BOET was an inspiration centre as much as a store. Schulz also gave out an interior decoration magazine with the same name, aiming to inspire readers in every aspect of interior design. BOET magazine was the most influential periodical on interior design in Sweden at the time, featuring reviews by high-profile designers and architects.
Schulz’s furniture was very modern – and at the same time often inspired by older styles such as late baroque. His design was so original that he even patented some of his techniques. Among them the usage of decorative nails as part of the design, a technique that was named “Bopoint”.