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Give the gift of joy!

The fantastic story of Bjørn Wiinblad,
the man and the artist

Bjorn

From illustrator to cosmopolitan multi-artist

Bjørn Wiinblad was born in Copenhagen in 1918. At a very early age, he began to show signs of his talent for drawing and creating imaginative worlds. Aged 17, he began an apprenticeship as a typographer, but soon realised that his heart was set on following the path of an artist.

On qualification as a journeyman, he was immediately accepted onto the Graphic Programme at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

Even though Bjørn Wiinblad was Copenhagen born and bred, and had trained in Copenhagen, his style was anything but Danish, and while functionalism ruled the roost in Denmark, Bjørn Wiinblad went the other way, espousing a style dominated by wavy lines, bright colours and romantic worlds.

He soon developed his art from ‘just’ drawing to include ceramic art as well. It is said that his work illustrating the ‘1001 Nights’ inspired him to draw a variety of ceramic objects such as vases and pots decorated with themes from the fairy tales.

Wiinblad taught himself a variety of ceramic techniques, and from there he expanded his vigorous talent for creation and delight in art to encompass ‘all platforms’: tapestries, complete furnishing designs for hotels, etc. – not to mention grill tables, cutlery, porcelain and matching glassware, fabrics, posters and more.

Wiinblad did not leap randomly from one object to the next. It was more a matter of an ongoing process, in which one object pointed to the next, and where Wiinblad’s curiosity served to reinforce the flow.

Bjørn wiinblad ornaments , fugl i rede

No matter what surface or medium Wiinblad chose for his creations, his style was instantly recognisable and truly inimitable – and his joie de vivre shone through in each and every product.

Bjørn wiinblad ornaments , skiller

An international ‘rock star’

Wiinblad’s international greatness can be compared to that of Søren Kierkegaard or, for a more contemporary reference, the artist Olafur Eliasson – although Wiinblad never achieved the same artistic recognition in Denmark as Olafur Eliasson. He did outside Denmark, however, where he was commissioned to design complete hotel furnishing solutions in Japan, the United States and Germany, as well as a unique dinner service for the Shah of Persia.

In 1957, Wiinblad was appointed Chief Designer for the prestigious German brand Rosenthal, a position that enhanced his international reputation even further. He was happy to travel all over Europe in connection with launches of dinner services, and people queued up to have items signed by him.

He rarely travelled alone, generally inviting friends along to keep him company on the journey.

The reason why Wiinblad was not as readily recognised in Denmark had to do with his unusual, ‘un-Danish’ style – and with the fact that he earned a great deal of money from his art and productions.

Money was not the driving force for Wiinblad, however; he spent as much money as he made on travel, parties, antiquities, art and so on.

He was often invited to vernissages by young artists in Copenhagen, because they knew that he was always happy to buy something.

What really mattered to Wiinblad was to give free rein to his incredible creative zest and to spread delight to as many people as possible through his numerous and varied productions.

Wiinblad was one of a kind, blessed with the ability to rise above the mundane – even though he was often the target of criticism from the art elite of Copenhagen.

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Wiinblad conquers the theatre scene

There was a special place in Wiinblad’s heart for the theatre, where he could experiment and unfurl his frisky imagination on a broad canvas.

The ballet and the opera in particular captured his interest, and famous actors and theatrical directors were often guests at his lively dinner parties. Wiinblad created the most fantastic and beautifully complete solutions, which maintained a consistent theme in the staging, the costumes, the posters, etc. both in Denmark and abroad.

Famous productions he worked on include: ‘The Nutcracker’, ‘The Swineherd’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’. And to close the circle, inspiration from the world of theatre was naturally also channelled back into Wiinblad’s figures.

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The women – a consistent theme

The women were a consistent theme in the Wiinblad universe and production.

His women displayed a wide range of emotional nuances, and their eyes – specifically, their gaze – were always very special. As a rule, they looked out with openness and curiosity – but with traces of dejection, melancholy and mysticism.

The eyes meant something very special to Wiinblad, so even though he employed a large number of people, he always painted the eyes himself. The personality of the women also found expression through unusual heads and strange, sprout-like ears, short arms, small breasts and angular noses. In other words, the women were intensely ‘Wiinbladian’.

Wiinblad gave them beautiful names: Eva, Cæcilia, Bolette, Celestine, Dyveke and so on.

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Wiinblad the industrious employer

Bjørn Wiinblad worked all the time and slept very little. His work energised him.

Ideas and productions flowed from his hands, and his broad network of contacts and delight in creation led him to make extravagant promises. At the same time, he was hugely ambitious. ‘Nothing’s handed to you on a plate,’ was a refrain often overheard by his painter girls.

Wiinblad had the space to be creative because he employed a great many people to mould and paint figures, and to take care of the housekeeping and all the practical matters.

But that is not so say that he was not engaged; he was very much present and committed to the entire artistic process, and his child-like delight found expression in the fact that he almost always thought that the last thing he had made was the best ever – and then quickly moved on to the next project!

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