Georg Jensen and Kay Bojesen are two Danish silversmiths who contributed substantially to the Danish silversmith tradition. Delving into the works of these two late greats, it becomes clear how design and craftsmanship paid a significant role in the creation of their works.
What many people may not know today is that Kay Bojesen was Georg Jensen’s apprentice at the beginning of the last century.
Georg Jensen was born in 1866 and was the son of a knife grinder in the town of Raadvad, just to the north of Copenhagen. Initially, and at the age of 14, Jensen began training as a goldsmith in Copenhagen. His apprenticeship ended some years after, and Jensen moved on to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
A few years after graduation, since making a living by producing fine arts was proving difficult for him, Jensen began focusing on applied arts instead. First working as a modeller for Bing & Grøndahl (now Royal Copenhagen), Jensen then created a small pottery workshop. But sales were not strong enough to make a living, so in 1901, he abandoned the applied arts and started working as a silversmith.
After being taught by Danish silversmith Mogens Ballin for three years, Jensen opened his own silver smithy in Copenhagen in 1904. By then, Jensen had found his true calling, and before the end of the 1920s, Jensen had opened retail outlets in Berlin, London and New York.
Danish silversmith and designer Kay Bojesen was born twenty years after Georg Jensen, in 1886. Although he is best known for creating wooden animals, especially wooden monkeys, his artistic skills with silver were unmistakable.
Having first trained to be a grocer, Bojesen started working for Georg Jensen in 1906. Designmuseum Danmark has described Bojesen’s early work as being influenced by Jensen’s art nouveau-styled silver. In 1951, a set of stainless steel cutlery Bojesen had designed some years earlier won the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale.
Today, the Georg Jensen brand is renowned throughout the world. In addition to silverware, the products of the company also encompass jewellery, watches and accessories. According to the Georg Jensen Company, the philosophy of Jensen himself was to make democratic designs possessing both functionality and beauty. His skills and artistic talent combined with his continuous ability to identify and support design talent were the foundation on which he built the brand Georg Jensen.
Despite being a silversmith, the prize-winning cutlery of Kay Bojesen was made of steel, but was later introduced in silver. Bojesen’s cutlery set was named Grand Prix, and was used in Danish embassies around the world. The Grand Prix cutlery has since been relaunched and is being manufactured by the granddaughter of Kay Bojesen, Sus Bojesen Rosenqvist.
The Danish museum Koldinghus in Kolding celebrates Georg Jensen’s 150th birthday by commemorating him and his works with one of the biggest exhibitions, featuring more than 800 pieces from Georg Jensen’s smithy. The exhibition runs until February 26 2016.