Examine The Scandinavian Design History History Essay


In our work we are going to examine the Scandinavian design history and we will pay a special attention to the Swedish glass, its history and outstanding feature.

The main features of the Scandinavian style are its naturalness and simplicity. Scandinavian design has incorporated such traits of its peoples as a restraint and a certain harshness, coldness and silence, as well as true love and respect for nature. That is why a Scandinavian-style interior includes a minimum of decor and is made in light natural tones of the simple and natural materials, but the identity and authenticity of this style can not be refused. Cold dark streets of the Nordic countries dispose of a depression. From these gloom and sadness the Scandinavians save themselves in a very light house. There are blond woods, light rock, light pastel shades… And the glass! A lot of glass! Icy transparent and opaque milk, refracting and scattering the sun’s rays – the whole Scandinavian interior is based on the play of light and shade. Rare and weak rays of the sun are to be used on a maximum!

In the scandinavian houses there are virtually no extra things, useless accessories. Even the various glass vases are present only because the glass transmits the sun’s rays, refract and reflect them, in other words, fills the room with light. [1] 

Glass is an artificial material that has properties similar to the stone. Therefore, the glass like a stone, can be cut, engraved, fretted, it is possible to scratch different ornaments and drawings on it.

With the invention of glass and development of new ways to blow molding, mass manufacturing of glass objects begins. [2] 

Sweden is famous for its unique glass!

The Kingdom of Glass (Glasriket) keeps old traditions of glassblowers. In a small area there are eleven unique glass-blowing villages, each of which has its own traditions and its own atmosphere. All the year round in the glass-blowing workshops one can observe a fascinating process during which the experienced glassblowers turn red-hot glass into a beautiful crystal bowl and colorful works of art. The branded glass shops are full of discounted products due to the minor flaws, that are offered at extremely reasonable prices. The vented manually glass is never absolutely identical, although the glassware exposed to the shelves is a sign of quality of glass factories. The Kingdom of Crystal, offering visitors a wide range of attractive sights, as well as giving the opportunity to purchase in the truly historic surroundings, is one of the most popular tourist sites in Sweden. Glaskonst (“Art glass”) is the most extensive exhibition of Swedish art glass.

A great fame was acquired by the glassware manufactured by the factories in the “Orrefors” and “Kosta Boda”.

They were based in the eighteenth century (“Kosta Boda” -1742; “Orrefors” -1898) and are located in the beautiful places in Sweden, called the “Kingdom of Crystal.” The company has managed to maintain ancient traditions of craftsmanship of glass, which is a Swedish national pride and a “visiting card” of the country. Each product is accompanied by its special history, which allows to touch the centuries-old tradition of glass craftsmanship and enjoy the epitome of fantasy of the world-famous Swedish designers.

In 1991, the company received a unique order for the creation and production of special service for the banquet in honor of the 90th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. This service (the designer is Gunnar Syren) still adorns the collection of “Orrefors”. Vases, bowls, dishes from Orrefors decorate the apartments of the Swedish Royal Family.

The works of authorship of “Orrefors” and “Kosta Boda” are widely represented at exhibitions, art shops and galleries, in private and public collections of museums around the world: the United States of America, Australia, Germany, France, South Africa, Japan, Great Britain, Israel, Brazil, Sweden. In Russia, at the Apollo Hall of the Hermitage, the famous “Orrefors” and “Kosta Boda” provided all that was remarkable in the history of Swedish glass from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 21st century. These are the baptismal bowl of cut glass, made by craftsmen of Kosta in 1897, commissioned by Nicholas II, the vase of the legendary Simon Gate – the inventor of the technology Graal, which brought the world fame to the Swedish glass in the 20-ies of the XX century, the works of our contemporaries – Bertil Wallin, Chelle Engman, Lena Bacstrom.

Now let us talk a little about the history of Swedish glass.

The first furnace for the production of window glass and household items made of this material appeared in Sweden in the XII century. In the XVIII century, most glass factories, the largest of which was Costa founded in 1742, was in the southwestern province of Sweden – in Småland. But for a long time Swedish masters served only the needs of the domestic market. Their products to the early twentieth century could not compete with the refined products from Germany and England.

The golden age of Glassmaking in Sweden occurred in 20-ies of the twentieth century. It is associated with the activities of enterprises Orrefors and Kosta working in Småland from 1898. The new expressive possibilities, found by artists who had not worked with glass before, brought a great success to the Swedish glass industry.

As it was mentioned above, the product of art glass from Orrefors are known very well. Edward Hald (1883-1980) and Simon Gate (1883-1945) pioneered several generations of art masters there. Simon Gate and Edward Hald came to Orrefors in 1916. The same year, Simon Gate developed a special method of blowing glass with the included colored decoration. He proposed a new technique of “Graal”, called so by association with the holy grail, in which the play of light refracted fancifullyt at the surface of vessels. The vase of his work “Valkyrie” is represented at many exhibitions nowadays. Vessels that were created in the new technique delighted audiences at international exhibitions in 1920-ies. The masters of Orrefors and Kosta still refer to it when creating their products, exemplified by the vase of Ulrica Hydman Vallien. This technique still has an important place among the production of the company “Orrefors”, especially in the works of Eva Englund. [3] 

      During the 40-ies of the XX century Sweden was constantly involved in the Triennial, and the countries affected by war, could not afford it. Scandinavian functionalism of the 40-50’s is less dogmatic than in the previous decade. Geometric shapes were softened, the angles and the planes smoothed out, the products became more emotional, human.

In the 40-ies instead of simple color schemes of the early functionalism the gradations of colors were introduced.

 Swedish glass is notable for its very soft rounded lines, graceful game of bumps, holes and flexible interceptions, the impression of lightness, airiness and fragility.

      The main trend of the 50-60-ies was the alienation from conventional art forms of the unique nature in the benefit of products of utilitarian purpose. Swedish firms “Orrefors” and company “Kosta Boda” still retain the tradition of decorative glass creating circulation of the consumer range. At the firm of “Orrefors” a tradition of decorative glass of Sven Palmqvist (1906) was developed. He began to work here in 1936, expanded the range of art products and introduced new methods for their manufacture.

Swedish artists have worked on many diverse set of functional properties of domestic and art glass. Nils Landberg (1907) entered the expressive motifs of black molded spiral in his thin-walled vessels creating a shape like a natural product of pure blowing, easy to use without additional details. [4] 

It should be noted that in Sweden the glass design developed in a more organized and focused form with clearly articulated objectives: “more beautiful things for everyday use”, which was the slogan consonant with social and aesthetic problem due to which the exhibition of functionalists took place in 1930. By 1940, Sweden became functionalist and remained like this until the present time. Its internal politics influenced the design and domestic architecture that resulted in unique style. It was Sweden to serve in the postwar period as the starting point and inspiration for the other Nordic countries. The Swedish historian Doug Widmann said about the time of the interrupted cotacts that those years were an idyllic period of reflection on the past and decorative formalism, especially when compared with functionalism and other progressive trends in 1920-30-ies. Another flow arose during the development of industrial design and under the influence of constructivist art. [5] An example is a hard style characterizing the sets of Kaj Franck (1911-1989). From 1954 to 1957 the exhibition “Design in Scandinavia’ (under the auspices of the presidents of the United States and the kings of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark) was exposed in many American and Canadian museums. [6] The effect was so great that many trading corporations joined the companies that traded products of Scandinavian design.

Carrying out the company for the functional design, Scandinavian organizations staged numerous exhibitions of objects, and later – the traveling exhibitions “The development of Scandinavian design.”

The International Exhibition in New York organized by the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design in 1982 and having demonstrated the achievements of Swedish design from 1880 to 1980 was the largest one.

The 70s have witnessed the revival of crafts in the north of Europe. The most amazing feature of the modern arts and crafts is their international character. National characteristics were largely lost, the new trends went beyond national borders. An important role in spreading new ideas in the 1970’s was played by the conference of the World Council of arts and crafts. The influence of the United States where arts and crafts had freed from the traditional approach became noticeable.

By 1980, the decorative arts of Sweden acquired a new grace, became more refined. In recent years a new generation of designers and artists loudly declared about itself.

Swedish art glass has earned a well-deserved recognition all over the world. Glassware take an honourable place in many national museums and is in high demand among different categories of buyers in most countries.

The activity of Simon Gate and Edward Hald proved the significance of the artist’s work for the successful development of production. Swedish textiles continue to engage the talented craftsmen. The works of Ulrica Hydman Vallien, Goran Warff, Monike Backstrom, Jan Juhanson, Kjell Engman are distinguished by a bright personality. One of the finest contemporary glass artists Bertil Vallien works at the factory Kosta in Sweden. [7] Working on the composition “Carolina” Vallien created the series of cobalt-blue and white sculptured heads, as if frozen by frost. These images were inspired by the fate of Carolina Olsson, who in 1875 at the age of 13, lost consciousness and woke up only in 33 years. The experienced state was envisioned by her as a darkness in which she was surrounded by blue people.

Bertil Vallien, like other masters of Manufactures Orrefors, Kosta and Boda, is working not only over the creattion of author, unique shapes, but he also creates a model for the production. The shape of glasses “Chateau”, created by him is a great success both in Sweden and abroad. Wizards continue the tradition, articulated in the slogan of Orrefors in 20s of the twentieth century: “more beautiful things for everyday use”. Industrial design became the creative credo of many Swedish glass artists, including designers of Orrefors: Ann Wahlström and Lena Bergström.

Currently, the once independent factories of Småland represent a single concern – Orrefors, Kosta, Boda, and at the same time, each company carefully preserves its own style of working with glass. [8] 

Glass known to mankind over 5000 years is presented here not as a traditional material of crafts art, but as a bright and varied modern means of expression of artistic ideas in an entirely new light that can acquire an infinite variety of forms and contents. Its magic ability to reflect and simultaneously pass through the light, be extremely fragile and surprisingly strong did not accidentally catch attention of famous Sweden artists who were traditionally engaged in painting, drawing and sculpture, having allowed them to create works changing our view of the good old glass and its familiar role.

So, in this paper we’ve got acquainted with the Scandinavian design history making a special stress on the Swedish glass, its history and outstanding features. From the information above we can make a conclusion that Swedish glass had its own distinguishing characteristics and is appreciated all over the world.

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