The Life Work of Thorvald Bindesboell

Thorvald Bindesbøll (1846-1908)
(1846-1908) Se tidslinje
Design Museum Denmark Se kort

By Charlotte Jul, skribent, editor and curator, 2006

Fascinating decoration 

Thorvald Bindesboell was a Danish Picasso when it came to using decoration to catch the viewer’s attention. Bindesboell’s sense of challenging, simple, yet rounded and sensuous expression is unparalleled. 
The archives of the Danish Museum of Art & Design hold between 6,000 and 7,000 Bindesboell drawings. When in 1925, after his death, Bindesboell’s drawings were submitted to the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris, they attracted great interest. The French were keen to get the address of this visionary artist ... 

Multitudinous aspects of craft 

Dishes, pots, bookbinding, posters, logos, furniture, silverware, textiles and houses. Thorvald Bindesboell trained as an architect like his father and among his commissions were the fishing warehouses (Fiskehusene) in Skagen, north Jutland and several private villas round Denmark. But he became interested in design and his life-long engagement echoed far into the future. Today, Bindesboell is a must for students of all creative disciplines because his works remain utterly modern and up-to-date. 

A master of his time 

Bindesboell’s innovative style combined the familiar with the unknown. Japanese crafts were among the many sources of inspiration that he converted into his own original expression. Bindesboell made a real name for himself with his ceramic works. The forceful, rich decorations turn dishes and pots into sensuous works, hungrily attracting the beholder’s attention. 
For more than 20 years, Bindesboell worked with ceramics, only to switch to silver in collaboration with goldsmith Holger Kyster of Kolding, west Denmark. Bindesboell also created unique silver works that were copied by other goldsmiths - never mind the copyright! 

Leading graphic artist 

Next to ceramics, Bindesboell is probably best known for his graphic design. He designed typefaces, book jackets, paper and logos for commercial enterprises. Bindesboell combines a richly decorative style with graphic simplicity in a fusion of art and graphics. The Carlsberg beer label in particular is world-renowned and a recognised classic. Think about that the next time you are having one! 

Jar, glazed earthenware, approx. 1893, Designmuseet. Photo: Pernille Klemp.
The label for Carlsberg Pilsner, 1904, 9.3 x 7.2cm, from Billedsamlingen & Arkiv for Dansk Design, Designmuseet. Photo: Pernille Klemp og Ole Woldbye.

Did you know?

Source: Bodil Busk Laursen (red.): Thorvald Bindesbøll: en dansk pioner, s. 26, Det Danske Kunstindustrimuseum, 1996.

Bindesbøll was a colorful personality and therefore a favorite victim of the newspaper's cartoonists and contemporary painters and photographers. He was notorious for his coarse language, and it was noticed when he spoke nicely at times. The painter Hans Nikolaj Hansen noted in the late 1890s: "It's been a long time since I found him so sweet and nice. We talked about "Art" in four hours ... Not a single "Poo-word" from his mouth ."

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Design and Arts, 2006

An entire canon could be created containing only Bindesbøll’s work. From the popular Hofetikette, to wonderful and radical ceramic works, to the most delicate jewellery and fantastical furniture. Not to mention his architectural works: ‘Fiskepakhusene’ in Skagen is the most prominent example, which was followed by generations of architects, but was perhaps most visible in the 1970s and 1980s where the trendsetting architects were all concerned with the simple painted wooden house. In each and every field, he worked at an international level. In actual fact, he was a qualified architect like his father, Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll. M. G. Bindesbøll was one of the greatest architects in Danish history and perhaps that’s why Thorvald – despite his talent – did not continue in that direction, but instead turned his enormous knowledge and skills to design and art.

Bindesbøll’s work is characterised by its great vitality, which was valued in a time when the avant-garde, with Georg Brandes at the forefront, was cultivating Nietzsche. Life energy, or vitality, plays a massive role in Bindesbøll’s art, where a powerful line is drawn across the paper, in clay or silver and gives form to all kinds of objects. However, Bindesbøll’s lines simultaneously stand out for being “enlightened”: that is, enriched by references back to Viking times, Antiquity and the Baroque and onto the modern reality that was only just beginning to appear in Copenhagen but that he heard about from his young co-worker Svend Hammershøi (Vilhelm’s brother).


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