Publication

  • The Chieftain and the Chair
    Maggie Taft
    Author
    University of Chicago Press, 2019
  • GRANTEE
    Maggie Taft
    GRANT YEAR
    2018

Chieftain Chair, Designed by Finn Juhl, Fabricated by Niels Vodder, 1949, teak and leather. Courtesy of Wright.

The Chieftain and the Chair tells the story of the production and persistent international appeal of Danish Modern design through a dual biography of two iconic midcentury chairs—Finn Juhl's Chieftain Chair and Hans Wegner's Round Chair (known colloquially as The Chair). Tracking the origins of these two designs from the teak forests of Thailand, where the wood originated, to the American Shaker revival, which inspired Danish designers, the book explores how Danish Modern design developed out of a host of globally culled resources and influences, and also out of specifically Danish policies (including furniture import taxes and wood subsidies) and institutions (like an annual Copenhagen design fair and the country's sole architecture school's furniture program). By following these designs from their inception in Denmark to their success overseas, The Chieftain and the Chair shows how handcrafted furniture from a small Nordic country became an international aesthetic and commercial force.

Maggie Taft is an independent scholar and founding director of the Haddon Avenue Writing Institute, a community-based writing center for teenage girls. Before establishing the Institute, she earned a PhD in art history from the University of Chicago, where her dissertation "Making Danish Modern, 1945–1960" received the 2015 Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Humanities. From 2014–16 she served as Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry at Washington University in St. Louis. Taft's writing and reviews have appeared in many magazines and journals including Artforum, The Point, Texte Zur Kunste, Design and Culture, and The Journal of Design History. She is coeditor of Art in Chicago: From the Fire to Now (University of Chicago Press, 2018), the first single volume history of art in Chicago from the nineteenth century through the present day.