Joie de vivre in every detail
For the love of lavish
Bjørn Wiinblad – a story about an artist with a thousand faces
Bjørn Wiinblad (1918–2006) has been described as an artist with a thousand faces because he kept reinventing himself so that he could find new places and new materials to decorate. These include his finely decorated pottery, his imaginative theatre settings and tapestry, his smiling girls such as Eva and Rosalinde, the posters that you will never quite finish exploring and, not least, his candlesticks, glasses and bowls. All of them are infused with a joie de vivre and energy that are unique in Danish – and international – art and design.
Let in the magic and joy
Bjørn Wiinblad’s joy of creating was eclectic. He painted oriental, opulent ladies and quirky fabled animals – and spread joy, magic and imagination among the people at a time when minimalism was at its most dominant. Wiinblad’s brush swept into every nook and cranny of his art, and his urge to decorate kept him at the brush for life.
His unstoppable craving for creativity, his opulent oriental style and boundless talent made him a world artist like no other in Denmark, and today the tale of the cheerful multi-talented artist is celebrated in Bjørn Wiinblad’s authentic magical world and in a modern, functional style.
A story about the artist with a thousand faces
But it was Wiinblad’s pottery, frames and candleholders in particular that made their way into Danish homes with their distinctive lines and a look that differed starkly from the rest of the Danish design style.
It is this unique look, his imaginative world and the opulent design that have made Bjørn Wiinblad a popular brand with those who want to inject a little more life and magic into their everyday and festive occasions.
Bjørn Wiinblad was one of Denmark’s most diligent artists. He travelled the world to exhibit, to create theatre sets and tapestry, and to paint his adorable girls with their pointy noses and almond-shaped eyes on cups, jugs and dishes.
Childhood – The young artist in a political family (1918–1927)
Bjørn Wiinblad was extremely hard-working, which is why he was not only a good businessmanm but also became one of the wealthiest Danish artists in the 1960s and 1970s. So wealthy that for a while he had seven homes - in Denmark, in southern Germany and in Switzerland, which he used as a base when travelling around for his commissions, or when he took his friends on long opera and cultural journeys.
Nobody had expected this to be the case for the young Bjørn Wiinblad when he debuted in 1945. And certainly not when he was born in 1918 in Østerbro, Copenhagen, in a family that was preoccupied with politics and social conditions.
His father, Otto Wiinblad, sat in Landstinget for the Social Democrats, and his grandfather, Emil Wiinblad, was, in his time, editor of the Social Democratic newspaper and for a while also elected for the Landsting. Bjørn Wiinblad’s mother was called Ebba Wiinblad and she kept the family together, ensuring that the whole family, which included Bjørn’s sister Ulla, still took time out to spend in their summer cottage in Hvidovre every summer. Ebba Wiinblad sewed and pickled while the men discussed politics – including with Denmark’s Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning, who was a regular guest of the family until his death in 1942.
However, one little man in the family didn't want to discuss politics. That was Bjørn Wiinblad. He preferred to draw and paint, and over time he also began to write short stories.
Bjørn Wiinblad was a dreamer and had no ambition whatsoever to enter politics. Instead, he found joy in art and creativity.
Early youth – The difficult learning period (1928–1937)
He had told his father that he wanted to be an artist, but his father insisted that he first pursued an education that would ensure him a fixed monthly salary. So in 1935, Wiinblad embarked on his education to become a typographer, and even though he could see the sense in learning a proper craft, he didn't enjoy the typographer environment.
Many years later, he told the weekly newspaper Hjemmet about the difficult years he experienced as a typographer student: 'Either I dropped all the text on the floor, or I'd spend my time writing poetry or drawing instead'. Wiinblad didn't settle into the harsh environment at all, and his boss was on his case: 'I swore to the other apprentices that I would never address him with the informal 'you' once I'd been trained – and that I would never drink beer'. According to tradition, apprentices always had to address their boss with the formal Danish 'you', and only on the day of their graduation were they allowed to use the informal 'you,' an occasion that was marked with a cold beer.
According to the quotes from an article in Hjemmet in 1988, Bjørn Wiinblad couldn't imagine anything worse. And he managed to avoid having that beer with his boss because the day he graduated, World War II broke out and people had other things on their mind.
For the parents, it may have been a relief that their son received a typographer education. As a child, Wiinblad had been mostly preoccupied with writing stories, drawing and playing the recorder. He went on trips to Dyrehaven north of Copenhagen, where he would spend hours daydreaming and looking at the beautiful animals. In primary school, he wasn't the sharpest in the class, but luckily his sister Ulla took him under her wing and supported him when necessary. But he did graduate a typographer, and Wiinblad would later benefit greatly from being able to work with large empty surfaces, which he had to decorate from a sketch in his head or drawn on paper.
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts – An artist is born (1938–1947)
In 1940, Wiinblad was a newly qualified typographer and had he followed the usual path, he would soon have found a job as a printer or compositor in a newspaper. But he couldn't let go of the idea of working with art – and preferably as an illustrator, so in 1940 he started studying at the graphic school in the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Wiinblad began by following his professor Aksel Jørgensen’s tight graphic style, but soon began looking for a place where he could fully unfold, lose himself in his imagination, and draw elf-like figures, women with almond eyes and beautiful flowers.
He found the answer in ceramics, which fellow student Lars Syberg introduced him to in around 1943. Syberg had his own workshop in Taastrup and invited Wiinblad to try his hand at ceramics. It turned out to be the right thing to do. When Wiinblad wasn't studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, he unleashed himself in Lars Syberg’s workshop. He couldn't twist or shape the ceramic, but he could decorate it and was particularly enthusiastic about working with the old cow horn technique, filling a cow's horn with colour and applying it to a pot or dish. This gives a particularly fine line and requires a steady hand.
In 1945, Wiinblad graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and that same year he debuted with a comprehensive exhibition in the small Binger gallery in Palægade in Copenhagen.
In addition to displaying a wealth of ceramic pots, dishes and bowls, he exhibited drawings, posters and illustrations for the book Aladdin and his magical lamp. The exhibition became a major attraction, and Wiinblad sold art worth 1000 kroner from day one. However, the most important thing about the exhibition was that he met a number of people who could soon get him started making even more ceramics and drawing even more posters. These included Jacob E. Bang, who had just become creative director of the small pottery factory, Nymølle. He quickly became friends with Wiinblad, and Jacob E. Bang soon hired the young Wiinblad to work for Nymølle, which in the years that followed led to a wealth of plates, bowls, cups, dishes, ashtrays and candleholders adorned with Wiinblad’s drawings flowing out the workshop.
This is how Bjørn Wiinblad came to be in every Dane's home – most people were able to afford the goods that came from the factory. His art reached ordinary people and that’s what he really wanted – allowing as many people as possible to enjoy the imaginative and opulent design he’s still known for.
Bjørn Wiinblad – Historical timeline
Bjørn Wiinblad was born in Copenhagen in a family consisting of mother Ebba, father Otto and big sister Ulla.
Wiinblad began his apprenticeship as a typographer and then attended the typography course at Frederiksberg Technical College.
He graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Wiinblad first dreamt of becoming an illustrator, but before he would get that far, he discovered a love of ceramics.
He started drawing and narrating children’s books, including Mukkerla’s 'Out in the Woods' . In 1944, this was published by book publishing dealer Rasmus Naver. Wiinblad also created illustrations for Aladdin. He learned about ceramic techniques at Lars Syberg’s workshop in Taastrup, where he also started working. He also learned about the cow horn technique and began decorating and painting with bright colours.
Wiinblad held his first ever exhibition at the Copenhagen Binger gallery. Based on the exhibition's popularity, Wiinblad began collaborating with Haandarbejdets Fremme.
Wiinblad was employed as an illustrator at Nationaltidende, and started working at the Nymølle ceramics factory, a collaboration that would span more than 30 years. This is also the year when Wiinblad drew his first poster, something he would later become famous for.
Wiinblad created drawings, illustrations and posters for the publications of several volumes of A thousand and one nights. He also entered the theatre world as a decorator and scenographer with Lysistrale in Riddersalen. In the early 1950s, Wiinblad founded and established his own ceramic workshop in Kgs. Lyngby.
He won a silver medal for a collaboration with potters Nathalie Krebs and Axel Salto at the first international ceramic festival in Cannes.
Wiinblad was hired as a designer by the German design company Rosenthal AG. He worked with the company for almost 50 years, and some of Wiinblad’s most famous works from this time are Romane, Lotus and The Magic Flute.
Wiinblad became the first artist to exhibit at Illums Bolighus, an exhibition that would be much talked about. He decorated Tivoli’s restaurant, Færgekroen, and started working with decoration abroad – including hotels like the London Hilton.
Wiinblad created a series of 12 monthly plates for Nymølle. That same year, he also received the prestigious International Design Award.
He moved into The Blue House in Kongens Lyngby. Over the years, the house would have a major impact on Wiinblad’s life. Not only would it serve as the workshop for Wiinblad and the people he worked with – it was also his home until he died in 2006. Today, the house functions as a living museum.
Wiinblad made a tea caddy for grocery chain Irma – the second art caddy produced for the company. Artist Per Arnoldi had produced one the previous year. Wiinblad also opened his own own business, Bjørn Wiinblads Hus, in Copenhagen.
He became co-owner of Nymølle Ceramic Factory in the same year as he received a knighthood by Queen Margrethe of Dannebrog. Wiinblad’s status as a collector’s item manufacturer began to pick up speed. One of Wiinblad’s famous fans is Hollywood celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1981, the actor said: "I love Bjørn Wiinblad and have bought many of his items, which go perfectly with my blue bedroom. I prefer his simple things, but all in all I love him, and if you don't like him in Denmark, then that just proves the old saying that a professional isn't appreciated in his home country."
He was named “Man of the Year” by the Danish-American Society.
Wiinblad was rewarded for his many achievements around the world and received first Bakkens Oscar and the following year Lyngby-Taarbæk Municipality’s Culture Award.
He was behind the design of Restaurant Wiinblad at Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen.
Wiinblad drew the first ever Christmas poster for Tivoli.
Died in Lyngby aged 87. That same year, Bjørn Wiinblad’s Foundation was founded.
The Blue House opened to the public. Bjørn Wiinblad’s private home and studio remain as though he just walked out the door. Bjørn Wiinblad wanted his home to be an open artist’s home and a living workshop for potters.
Rosendahl Design Group acquired the rights to Wiinblad’s design and launched the first reinterpretations of Wiinblad.
For the love of lavish
The opulent ladies and cunning fabled animals, the graceful pottery and the magnificent candleholders, glasses and bowls, all of them represent Bjørn Wiinblad’s originality and love of play through their detailed patterns and decorations. An unparalleled creative talent that remains unique in Danish design and expression.
Bjørn Wiinblad’s motifs pay tribute to opulence. It is the tale of a functional design so bold and magical that it becomes impossible not to see in it all the joy and spirit of life. It’s quite simply a love of opulence.
New interpretations with roots in the original works
For more than 50 years, Bjørn Wiinblad was one of Denmark’s most productive artists and recognised for his special, humorous lines, maximalist style and amazing colours. Since 2014, Rosendahl Design Group has held the rights to the enormous design archive, which includes everything from textiles to ceramics, glass and porcelain.
We go to great lengths to look back at the most popular and coveted designs from Bjørn Wiinblad and give them new life. In Bjørn Wiinblad’s world, the women’s faces with the almond-shaped eyes and pointed noses are some of the best known, and he kept returning to them through a variety of shapes and sizes.
Bjørn Wiinblad was a cheerful artist with a big and colourful personality who did his own thing and wasn't afraid to dream and think big. His soul is also embodied in Eva, a new interpretation of Wiinblad’s original vase with the characteristic smiling woman’s face he himself called Eva. Eva is a person in her own right and encourages us to express our own style and personality in interior design with colourful bouquets of flowers, exotic plants, candles and creative decorations. One thing is for certain: Life is never dull when Eva moves in.
With her cheerful smile, blushing cheeks and colourful decorations, Eva embodies the essence of Bjørn Wiinblad as a person and an artist – whether in the form of a vase, candleholder or flower pot. Happy and dreamy, she brings life and personality to the interior with her poetic expression and vibrant colours. Wiinblad’s opulent design will inject extra life into your home.
Lively and generous artist
Wiinblad’s joie de vivre is exactly what we want to bring to our contemporary designs. And a design that perfectly reflect that joie de vivre is the Guirlande Christmas dinner service. With its fusion of crisp white porcelain and red drapes, the dinner service exudes modern Nordic tradition – but also the playful and imaginative world that Bjørn Wiinblad is known for. Christmas is full of traditions, but it’s mainly a celebration of love. And where there's love, there's Bjørn Wiinblad.
Bjørn Wiinblad followed his own path. Not just in Denmark, but all over the world with a colourful personality and generosity that was expressed in both personal relationships and in his detailed and diverse designs. He was quite simply great company, sharing stories, dinner parties, gifts and joie de vivre to the delight of family, friends and others who were lucky enough to cross his path.
It is precisely this kind of feeling that we want to create with our products. Because everyone deserves to have a bit of Bjørn Wiinblad’s magical joy in their lives.
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