1856 - 1935
Johan Rohde was the very first, and arguably, the most important design collaboration that Georg Jensen made. It was this first collaboration that paved the way for the many future design collaborations which kept the company at the forefront of Danish design throughout the 20th century. It was Rohde's vision of design without irrelevant decoration that moved Georg Jensen Silversmithy towards the design schools to follow.
Johan Rohde studied medicine before seeking education as a painter and illustrator at the Academy of Arts in Copenhagen 1981-1982. He was a pupil of both Laurits Tuxen and P. S. Kroyer from 1883. He exhibited paintings at Charlottenborg in 1888. Rohde was instrumental in establishing Kunstnernes Frie Studieskole & Den Frie Udstilling, an independent art school and gallery in opposition to the Danish Royal Academy of Arts which was stiflingly conservative at the time. Rohde encouraged Georg Jensen to exhibit his statue "Foraaret" (Spring) at Den Frie Udstilling in 1897.
Rohde found his way to the Applied Arts when he began designing furniture and silver for his own home, to be produced by leading Danish artisans. His collaboration with Georg Jensen began in 1906 when he commissioned Jensen to create some objects drawn by himself for his own personal use, Jensen was impressed by Rohde's designs. Rohde designed for several Danish silversmiths as well as furniture designs and his own paintings, until Jensen finally succeeded in securing an exclusive contract in 1913. The collaboration lasted until Rohde's death in 1935, just months before Georg Jensen's passing.
Rohde’s designs for Georg Jensen Silversmithy incorporated Jensen’s signature characteristics, the visible hammer marks and oxidation techniques, though his interpretation of the Art Nouveau style was more structured and often incorporated classical elements. Jensen's design and design method was impulsive, he was constantly sketching designs, which the silver smith's then had to interpret. Rohde was much more methodical, working on his designs in intricate detail until he felt it was ready for presentation to the silver smiths. His earlier designs almost fall in between the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco that followed, or perhaps are an evolution on the way to the Art Deco. Certainly his later designs were pure Art Deco, a design evolution that Jensen himself never fully made.
Among Johan Rohde's most significant designs are the flatware patterns Acorn/Konge from 1915 and Scroll/Saga from 1927. Acorn is without doubt Georg Jensen's best selling and best known flatware pattern of all time. The "Cosmos" tea and coffee service #45, from 1915, has a timeless elegance that made it possibly Jensen's most sold tea service.. His iconic pitcher #432 was designed in 1920 but first produced in 1925, as the silver smithy thought the design too radical. The King's Bowl featured in this newsletter was originally designed for King Gustav V of Sweden in 1917. Rohde was a prolific designer and these are but a few of his many designs for Georg Jensen. As well as Georg Jensen hallmarks, Rohde's designs are marked with a little round JR designer mark.