Fabulous Finn Juhl Furniture: the Poet Sofa
Our new book explains how a long-running Danish comic strip christened this modernist classic
Like many great mid-century modernists, Finn Juhl appreciated craftsmanship and also fine arts. One of his earliest aesthetic loves was ancient Greek sculpture, and, as a young man, he harboured ambitions to become an art historian.
However, the popular name for Juhl’s FJ41 sofa, the Poet Sofa, didn’t come from the designer’s own poetic inclinations, but from a little-known Danish cultural reference.
As author Christian Bundegaard explains in Finn Juhl: Life, Work World, the Poet is called the Poet “because it resembles in large part another Finn Juhl sofa, which was only produced in a single edition and which featured in the Danish comic series The Poet and the Little Mother, which was adapted into a popular film.”
Created by the Danish cartoonist and sculptor Jørgen Mogensen, the Poet and the Little Mother – or Poeten og Lillemor- was a humorous, slightly bawdy satire of young married life, which ran in a popular Danish Sunday newspaper supplement for a little over 53 years from 1950 until the artist’s death in 2004.
The sofa, on which the lazy poet naps and thinks, certainly does look a lot like Juhl’s more readily available work. However, the furniture designer actually drew inspiration from other sources of artistic inspiration.
“It is – to adopt the usual cliché – sculptural,” writes Bundegaard. “At the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild’s furniture fair in 1941 Juhl exhibited two Poet Sofas in the company of an abstract wall sculpture in plaster by the Faroese artist Sigurjón Ólafsson. Juhl was heavily influenced by contemporary Modernist sculptors and he always exhibited his furniture in interplay with abstract art.”
Bundegaard also detects practical considerations in the sofa’s form. “The backrest embraces two sitters in conversation,” he writes. “The sofa positions them naturally, angled slightly towards one another, so that they need not twist in their seats to make eye contact. This design is a proposed solution to a problem: two people in conversation. Intimate conversation perhaps, but without their being seated uncomfortably close, or drifting away from each other, or sitting too formally with straight backs. Rather, back and lumbar supports, a rest for one arm and the possibility of many different postures have been thought into and ensured by the design.”
The ideal addition to any young couple’s home, then, regardless of poetic output. For more on Finn Juhl’s life, work and world, order a copy of Finn Juhl: Life, Work World here.