Danish Poul Kjærholm was born in the small village of Øster Vrå in northern Jutland on January 8, 1929. At only 15 years of age he embarked on the journey that would eventually lead him to international fame when he was apprenticed to local master cabinetmaker Th. Grønbech in the neighbouring town of Hjørring. Having obtained his certificate of completed apprenticeship and a bronze medal for “a finely crafted mahogany-polished secretary”, as stated on the certificate, young Kjærholm decided to leave his childhood region and go to Copenhagen where he was admitted to study at The Danish School of Arts and Crafts in Frederiksberg the following year.
At the school Poul Kjærholm studied under Hans J. Wegner while also following the lectures of Professor Kaare Klint at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. For a short period of time he studied under architect Jørn Utzon as well, but beyond that he was heavily influenced by international designers such as Americans Charles and Ray Eames, Bauhaus icon Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the radical, Dutch minimalist Gerrit Rietveld.
Poul Kjærholm proved his unique talent already in his early years at the Arts and Crafts school, when he engaged in bold and visionary experiments with novel materials and production technologies. Thus, in 1950 Poul Kjærholm developed the basic concept for a radical new series of furniture in compression-moulded plywood, the PK0 chair. This beautiful, sculptural and futuristic piece of furniture challenged all norms in traditional furniture design at the time.
Over the following years Kjærholm refines his talent amongst other things by working part-time for his mentor Wegner and architect Jørn Utzon. He is also engaged as a teacher and inspirator at The Danish School of Arts and Crafts and later at the Furniture School under The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1955 Poul Kjærholm engages in formal co-operation with furniture maker Ejvind Kold Christensen. This spawns the most productive period in Kjærholm’s career, and this is the period that sees the emergence of his most sublime furniture.
In retrospect it is obvious how Kjærholm’s work from this period becomes the exponent of a new era in Danish and Scandinavian furniture making. After half a century dominated by the aesthetics of wooden materials, Kjærholm introduces an industrial dimension into his furniture, one where the qualities of metal prevail. The best example of this paradigm shift is Kjærholm’s homage to the master Kaare Klint, the PK91 folding stool from 1961 which is a stringent industrial interpretation of Klint’s 1930 Propeller stool.
Kjærholm’s idiom and uncompromising search for a minimalist ideal has resulted in a collection of universal and timeless classics, a fact that is emphasised by the continued popularity of his works to this day.