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Svenska Slöjdföreningen


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(Swedish Society of Industrial Design, established 1845)

Founded in Stockholm, this campaigning body for improving standards of design in Swedish industry alongside public education in the aesthetics of the domestic environment is one of the longest‐standing in the world. With increased levels of migration from the countryside to the cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Society's original mission was re‐evaluated, and it took on a stronger social dimension with a commitment to raising standards of design in everyday life. Such tendencies were reflected in Ellen Key's 1899 book Skönheit för Alla (Beauty for All) that argued for economic everyday design. Many of those associated with the Society ensured the continuity of such thinking in Sweden, as was seen in Gregor Paulsson's influential publication Vackrare Vardagsvara (More Beautiful Everyday Things) of 1919. Paulsson, an art historian and critic who was to become the Society's director in 1917, had lived in Berlin in 1912 and developed links with the Deutscher Werkbund, which had been established in 1907 to forge close links between design and industry in Germany. Unlike many other European countries Sweden was not involved in the First World War and so relationships between design and industry continued to develop uninterrupted, driven on by the efforts of the Society's secretary Erik Wettergren. An important design landmark in this period was the 1917 Hemutställningen (Home) exhibition put on by the Society in the Liljevalchs Gallery in Stockholm. It consisted of 23 interiors that derived from a competition for the design of furnishings, fittings, and equipment of one‐ and two‐bedroomed flats for working‐class and middle‐class consumers. Key figures emerged at this exhibition, including the craft‐oriented furniture and textile designer Carl Malmsten and architect and furniture designer Gunnar Asplund, who exhibited a kitchen‐living room. The latter, although it had a strong crafts influence in the simple forms of its furniture, was also symbolically attuned to the possibilities of economic, larger‐scale production.

This more progressive functional aesthetic was to become an increasingly important aspect of the Society's propaganda and influence during the 1920s as seen in its collaboration with AB Svenska Möbelfabrikerna, one of the largest furniture manufacturers in Sweden. Swedish ‘grace and elegance’ in design was increasingly recognized in international circles, particularly in the Swedish showing at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels, but the Society's next major initiative was a significant involvement in the functionalist 1930 Stockholm Exhibition. Inspired by the Deutscher Werkbund's 1927 Weissenhof housing exhibition in Stuttgart, the Stockholm exhibition was an unambiguous promotion of modern design and 20th‐century living: advertising, transport and communications, and the urban environment were all central to the display. Housing, interiors, furnishings, and equipment design was on view alongside schools and hospitals. This Swedish commitment to funkis (functionalism) was too austere for large sectors of the public who did not warm to the abandonment of ornament and decoration as important features in design; nor did they warm to tubular steel furniture in place of the more familiar use of wood. Prominent among such critical voices (in many ways parallel to the situation at the Weissenhof Exhibition) was that of the generally conservative furniture industry, which warned that undecorated standardized forms would lead to job losses and that investment in innovation would lead to price increases. Nonetheless, the idea of a softer ‘Swedish Modern’ design remained a positive strand of 1930s design with positive showings at the 1937 Paris Exposition and the 1939 New York World's Fair. After the war the influence of the Svenska Slöjdföreningen was less marked, although Paulsson's ideas continued to be promoted by Ake Stavenow, Sven‐Erik Skawonius, and Arthur Hald. Another Paulsson disciple, the Society's director Ake H. Huldt, was the manager for the H55 exhibition held at Helsingborg where over a million visitors saw a large‐scale exhibition of modern housing and furniture.

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Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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