Georg Jensen - The Most Famous Danish Silversmith in History

Georg Jensen is the most famous Danish silversmith and jewelry designer that ever lived. He is world-renowned for his refined and intricate mastery.

The simple elegance of his works and the emphasis on fine craftsmanship, the hallmarks of Georg Jensen products, are recognized around the world.

Many of Georg Jensen's jewelry pieces are true works of art, honored to this day. He was one of the greatest representatives of the artistic movement known as "Art Nouveau".

Georg Jensen - The Humble Beginning Of A Great Master

Georg Arthur Jensen was born on August 31, 1866, in a small town called Raadvad from Denmark. He was the son of a local knife grinder and a housewife.
georg-jensen
Picture Credit: Georg Jensen
Since he was a child his interest in craftsmanship increased and he pursued mastery. He attended art and design schools extensively, and in 1880 when he was 14, he began training at a company called Goldsmith Andersen. After four years later of apprenticeship, he started to pursue other artistic interests.


In 1887, he won a scholarship to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, with the intention of becoming a sculptor (this was his dream as a child). He graduated in 1892 when he was 25 years old. Prior to his graduation, Georg Jensen presented one of his works at the Royal Academy during the annual Charlottenborg exhibition, a renowned art show held annually at the academy.

Although he was a skilled sculptor, he was unable to make a living, so he had to explore other fields, such as pottery manufacturing and metalworking, mainly jewelry and silver pieces.

The turning point in Georg Jensen's career came in 1900 when one of his jugs was chosen for the Danish Pavilion in Paris at the International Exhibition and won international acclaim. Despite his success, his activity in ceramics was interrupted, and he ended up definitively entering the world of silverware.

Following this event, the Danish Academy awarded Jensen a travel grant which he used to explore Europe. During the European tour, Georg Jensen appreciated the growing art style of the time, Art Nouveau, which he later embraced.

His naturalistic drawing pieces featured: flowers, plants, birds, grapes, and animals. Oxidation was used to give a sense of depth and a unique color to each jewelry piece. Semi-precious stones were often used to embellish surfaces: labradorite, opals, amber, malachite, lapis lazuli, coral, and agate.

Georg Jensen Opens His First Silver Shop

In 1901, Georg Jensen started working at the Ballin & Mogen silver shop. Ballin, an advocate of the Art & Craft philosophy, encouraged him to develop his own design projects.

Finally, summing up what was left of his finances and courage, Georg Jensen set up his own shop in Copenhagen in the spring of 1904, at the age of 37. He began producing intricate silverware that soon attracted the attention of the general public.

The master silversmith soon received bulk orders and commissions, which led him to expand his business even further. Jensen found that the market for his elegant and simple pieces was larger than anyone had predicted. In a short time, Jensen's silverware acquired international fame and popularity.

The House of Georg Jensen Flourishes

In 1909, the master silversmith opens a new shop in Berlin. According to Maglia del Gioielli, in 1915, the Berlin shop, despite great success, closed for the start of the First World War. He opened other stores to recover the lost market in Sweden, Paris (1918), London (1921), and New York (1924).

Georg Jensen exhibited his work at several important foreign exhibitions (winning a gold medal at the Brussels Exposition of 1910) and quickly built his reputation as a remarkable and extremely original silversmith.

At his first North American exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, he won several gold medals. William Randolph Hearst, a print tycoon, bought several pieces. In 1925, he won the Grand Prix at the Paris World Exhibition.

In the late 1920s, Georg Jensen began to hand over creative control to other designers within his company. He spent the last ten years of his life working as a silversmith until his death on October 2, 1935, at the age of 69.

Upon his death, the New York Herald Tribune called him "the greatest silversmith of the last 300 years."

The Jensen House Changes Style After His Death

After his death, his son Søren Georg Jensen took over the family business.

From that moment on, the Jensen company without its creator began in a new stylistic direction. The new Jensen style, initiated by Sigvard Bernadotte, was more geometric and abstract. The new designers: Nanna and Jorgen Ditzel, Nebbia Astrid, Henning Koppel, and Arno Malinowski continued the trend in the 1950s and 60s.

In 1973, the company became part of the Royal Scandinavia Group.

The company is still in business, today they reproduce old pieces to create new ones. Between 1985 and 1987, the house merged with two others to create Scandinavia's largest decorative arts business.

Georg Jensen's Personal Life

Georg Jensen had several marriages with several women during his lifetime. His first marriage was to Marie Christiane Antonette Wulff at the age of 25 in 1891. They had two children together, named Vidar and Jorgen. 6 years later, their marriage ended when Wulff died of kidney disease in 1897.

The second marriage was to Maren "Magne" Pedersen, his housekeeper, in 1904. He had a daughter named Vibeke, but once again, their marriage was shortened when Magne died of tuberculosis in 1907.

His third marriage was to Laura Julie Johanne Nielsen, whom he met in the spring of 1907. It was love at first sight for both of them, so the couple got married the same year. Together, they had three children named Lise, Birgitte, and a son named Søren.

However, like his two previous wives, Nielsen also died in August 1918, due to the Spanish flu, which has affected Europe ever since.

His fourth wife was a woman named Agnes Christiansen, whom he married in 1920 and gave birth to a daughter, Mette.

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