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Georg Jensen (1866-1935)
Born into a working-class family and trained as a sculptor and silversmith, Georg Jensen was deeply influenced by the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts traditions. He originally hoped to pursue a career as a sculptor, but the financial pressures of a young family necessitated a return to the silversmithing trade. In 1904, after a short spell working as a journeyman in the workshops of the Danish Arts and Crafts silversmiths Mogens Ballin (1871-1914), Jensen opened his first shop on a fashionable street in Copenhagen, selling silver jewellery set with semi-precious stones. Much of his inspiration came from nature rather than from traditional historical sources, creating his own stylized interpretations of fruit and flowers to ornament his work.
Though Jensen was a genius of silver design in his own right he also promoted the work of other designers to broaden the Jensen style and to push the firm to artistic leadership. The painter Johan Rohde (1856-1935) for example was highly influential in developing the Jensen brand. He is perhaps best known for designing Acorn pattern flatware (lot 422) and the Cosmos pattern pitcher and tea and coffee wares (lots 400-403).
Another influential designer was Jensen's brother-in-law, Harald Nielsen (1892-1977), who joined the firm as an apprentice in 1909 and became a prolific designer, remaining active until the 1960s. Nielsen was an accomplished draftsman and deeply versed in Rohde's and Jensen's styles. He often fleshed out their sketches to provide finished working drawings for the silversmiths. Yet, Nielsen was drawn to modernism, as can be seen in the striking vases (lot 424) and the simple dinner-plates (lot 426). As such his designs bridged the style of Jensen and Rohde and those designers of the 1930s whose work was influenced by modernism.
Georg Jensen viewed his market internationally, with a store in Berlin by 1909 and later Stockholm and Paris in 1918 and London in 1921. While the first store in New York didn't open until 1924, Jensen had already made his name through exhibitions such as the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where he not only won a Grand Prix but also won the patronage of William Randolph Hearst.
Despite winning international acclaim for its designs, the firm struggled financially, leading Jensen to relinquish control by 1924, spending a year in Paris preparing the firm's entry in the 1925 Paris exhibition, before returning to Copenhagen to act as Artistic director.