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Jensen, Georg Arthur (1866 - 1935)

  

One of the most talented, original, and influential silversmiths of the 20th century, Danish silversmith, sculptor and potter Georg Jensen was born in 1866, the son of a blacksmith, in the industrial town of Raadvad just to the north of Copenhagen.  Aged 14 his family moved to Copenhagen and he began his training in goldsmithing with the firm Guldsmed Andersen. 

In his spare time, he took drawing, geometry, engraving, and modelling course,s during which time he decided to become a sculptor.  So when his apprenticeship ended in 1884 Georg went to the Copenhagen Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1892 and immediately exhibited his work. Making a living as a fine artist proved difficult and he turned to the applied arts, first as a modeller at the Bing & Grøndahl porcelain factory and subsequently with a small pottery workshop he founded in partnership with Christian Petersen.  The work was well received but sales were not strong enough to support Jensen, by this point a widower, and his two small sons.

In 1901, he abandoned ceramics and returned as a silversmith and designer to the master, Mogens Ballin.  This led Jensen to make a momentous decision.  In 1904 he risked what small capital he had and opened his own small silversmithing business in Copenhagen.  His designs were a success, but his business acumen was not and he constantly relied on new investors. A departure in 1925 to work in Paris was unsuccessful and he returned to Copenhagen.  There, he rejoined his company as the artistic director where he continued to design for the company bearing his name until his death.

Jensen's training in metals along with his education in the fine arts allowed him to combine the two disciplines and revive the tradition of the artist craftsman.  Soon, the beauty and fine quality of his Art Nouveau creations took off and his success was assured.  Before the end of the 1920s Jensen had opened retail outlets in New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, and Berlin.  He won International acclaim at the 1910 Brussels Exhibition and The New York Herald Tribune hailed him as the "greatest silversmith of the last 300 years".

The Georg Jensen name always carried the mantle of the highest quality silver, made using the most expensive techniques of production.  At one time, Jensen made 33 flatware patterns, and 1200 designs of bowls, candelabra, tea sets, vases and wine coolers.  Like Georg Jensen jewellry, many pieces were embellished with semiprecious stones.

Georg Jensen died in 1935, but in the preceding years he instilled his firm with his strongly held ideals concerning both artistry in design and excellence in craftmanship. Although Jensen was an advocate of the Art Nouveau style, he had the wisdom and foresight to allow his designers their own freedom of expression which expanded the stylistic scope of what the firm produced and allowed it to keep step with the times.  Perhaps his greatest flair was the ability to find and nurture other talents and over the years Jensen hired a series of talented designers who also made names for themselves.

Georg Jensen silver designs live on as highly sought after examples of the art of fine silver.  Many of the early designs are still in production and look entirely contemporary today.