Bruno Mathsson

SWEDEN (1907–1988)
Bruno Mathsson descended from four generations of cabinetmakers in Värnamo, Sweden. A perfectionist to the core, he did not consider a piece of furniture complete unless it could pass inspection turned upside down. The designer experimented with carving, bending, laminating and finishing different types of wooden frameworks and fashioning them with innovative webbings made of hemp, linen or other fabric. Mathsson would make a chair or chaise lounge, then continue to create variations and refine the piece until he was satisfied it was pleasing to both the eye and the rest of the body. Each work of art was custom-made in his family’s shop in Värnamo and signed by Mathsson, who associated his own modern furniture with the traditional handicraft of his ancestors.

Mathsson was an architect as well. He designed the Småland Art Archive in Värnamo and from 1947–1957 experimented with incorporating large areas of glass into local residential architecture. Although his experiments were not well received in the cold, conservative northern province where he worked, he completed over 100 architectural projects. But it was in the arena of furniture design that he had the most far-reaching impact. While his specialty was seating, he also created influential table designs.

In 1959 poet and mathematician Piet Hein developed the superellipse (expressed mathematically as xn/an + yn/bn = 1) to address an urban design problem in Stockholm. Mathsson seized upon the superellipse as an elegant formal solution applicable to a smaller-scale problem: the tabletop. He also designed the self-clamping leg for a superellipse table made in collaboration with Hein. The V-shaped metal leg can be inserted without tools and anchored to the floor. The self-clamping leg has a direct descendant in contemporary Danish designer Erik Magnussen’s Click series.