Friday, 9 January 2015

Off the Shelf

Happy New Year! 

MoDA's Curator, Sim Panaser, takes a close look at one of the furniture catalogues in the Museum's collections.

Each month in Off the Shelf, I will be taking a closer look at book or catalogue in MoDA's collection.  To kick start January in style and help banish the excesses of the festive season, here is a 1962 furniture catalogue by Finmar, in which the graphic design mirrors clean lines, organic forms and a minimalist look indicative of the Scandinavian design that Finmar imported into Britain. 

1962 Finmar furniture catalogue cover featuring Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair

Finmar, a wholesaler and major importer of Scandinavian furniture to the UK was founded in 1934 by design reformer Philip Morton Shand.  Finmar introduced Alvar Aalto’s bent plywood furniture to pre-war British middles class homes.  Its popularity continued post-war albeit under the new ownership in 1949, with Dane Paul Ernst Stemann at its helm.  By 1954 Finmar was selling furniture to Heals and Liberty, had opened a large showroom on Kingly Street, London and was importing over 100 ranges of furniture from Scandinavia to Britain by designers included Fritz Hansen, Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner.   

Finmar employed the graphic designer Richard Hollis (b.1934) to design their 1962 furniture catalogue.  By 1962 Hollis was gaining a reputation as an eminent designer and he followed in Finmar's tradition of working with cutting-edge graphic designers.  Prior to Hollis, Finmar employed Hans Schleger (1898-1976), an eminent graphic designer who pioneered the idea of a corporate identity and worked with clients including Shell and London Transport.  The front cover of this catalogue features Schleger's Finmar font and tree logo.   

The catalogue is aimed at an audience of architects and buyers and is divided into sections by coloured paper.  Each divider features a strong graphic image of Finmar furniture and in the examples below; components of Finmar furniture appear as abstracts works of art.      

                                                          1962 Finmar furniture catalogue 

Less abstract images particularly of chairs are featured too. In the examples below the images of the furniture appear flattened emphasising the curvilinear silhouette of the chairs. Each divider of this catalogue is delivered with an arresting image designed to make the viewer stop and pause before moving into the next section.   

                                                           1962 Finmar furniture catalogue 

Hollis has also carefully considered the listing of the furniture itself. On the page below the chairs are shown at different angles and sizes, their positioning on the page gradually draws the viewer's eye down towards the bottom of the page.  The large amount of clear space gives the catalogue a lightness. Hollis' fantastic graphic design mirrors Scandinavian design perfectly. 

                                                                            1962 Finmar furniture catalogue 

Finmar flourished during the post-war period with the growing general public interest in Scandinavian design and as Scandinavian design was championed by design reformers. However its success was short-lived and the firm went into receivership in 1964.  The fantastic film Living Finmar, charts the rise and fall of the company and features interviews with those involved.  A trailer for the film can be seen below.

Living Finmar. Documentary Trailer from Dan Fontanelli on Vimeo.

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