Niels Vodder

Niels Vodder (1918-?), like many other Danish cabinetmakers of his time, exhibited his work almost every year at the Copenhagen Guild Exhibitions alongside the name of the designer with whom he collaborated. In many cases it was the designer, rather than the artisan, who could claim the body of work and go on to become an international name. For Vodder, the partner was Finn Juhl. For years he materialized Juhl’s innovative designs, and while he never gained recognition for the designs themselves, Vodder is mentioned often alongside Juhl as his pioneering craftsman.

Vodder was formally trained as a cabinetmaker and worked extensively with wood, developing new methods for curving and joining the pieces as well as innovative ways to develop and articulate the relationship between the frame and the upholstered parts. His hallmark designs were formally elegant and modest in structure. A 1947 dining room set for the Cabinetmaker’s show, for instance, was executed in teak and cherry with very simple chairs decorated by the alternating tones of the wood. In 1948, Vodder and Juhl created a “Study for an Art Collector,” which was referred to by exhibition critic Svend Erik Møller as, “a terribly far-fetched name for this nice room.” The set created a long, low table that could ostensibly be used by several people at once as a footstool. A 1949 curved coffee table and couch that they collaborated on was said to be, “as expensive and as delicate as a thoroughbred must be.”

In the 1950s Juhl and Vodder embarked on a large-scale project designing the interior of the Trusteeship Council Chamber in the New York headquarters of the United Nations. Vodder couldn’t make each chair for the project, although he probably would have liked to, but he made all the first prototypes in 1950. As the project progressed, he helped create and choose the wood paneling and detail work.

Vodder created the furniture and paneled wall for the Nordenfjeldske Museum of Applied Art in 1952, and in 1954 designed a living room set for the “Home of the Future” show, which made innovative use of built-in furniture. In the early sixties he and Juhl began to exhibit work that embraced some of the modern style, balancing it always, however, with a commitment to a high standard of craftsmanship. A 1960 easy chair had a luxurious contoured leather seat, and they produced a 1962 dining room set in ash. They made an interesting pine chair series for the 1964 show, which had square, box-like seats with large foam cushions. As a nod to the emerging younger market, they upholstered several of the cushions in denim. Throughout their partnership, Vodder consistently imbued Juhl’s energetic new take on traditional Danish design with an unquestionably solid elegance and beauty.

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