August 16, 2018 2 min read
In 1925, Gorham made the bold move of hiring Erik Magnussen, the important Danish silversmith, to develop a style of modern silver for the American market. (In the c. 1926 photograph above, he can be seen working on some early pieces.)
Inspired by the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (better known today as Art Deco), Gorham wanted to bring modern design to their American customers whose taste had become very conservative over the past 25 years. (In fact, no American companies exhibited at the fair since none thought they had modern designs to showcase.)
Gorham hired Erik Magnussen to fill this void. Magnussen had met with widespread critical acclaim in his homeland of Denmark, but his commercial career had met with ups and downs.
After serving an apprenticeship for his uncle and learning from other Danish masters, Magnussen moved to Berlin to study under German silversmith Otto Rohloff from 1907-09, after which he returned home and opened his own shop.
By training in Copenhagen, then going to Berlin for further study and returning home, Magnussen was following the traditional path of Danish silversmiths. Since the Renaissance, ambitious Danish silversmiths had apprenticed at home, worked as journeymen in Germany to learn the latest styles and techniques and then returned home to work in Denmark with their new knowledge.
After his return to Denmark in 1909, Magnussen opened a solo shop which was financially unsuccessful. He partnered with others, worked for others and in 1925, accepted Gorham's offer to work in the US with his own dedicated workforce to develop Gorham's line of modern silver.
In Denmark, Magnussen worked in silver and mixed media, many of his most successful pieces being jewelry - such as the circa 1914 pendant above made with gold and silver, incorporating a piece of Royal Copenhagen porcelain glazed to depict flowers in bloom.
Perhaps his most famous piece is the 1907 'Grasshopper' brooch in the collection of the Danish Museum of Decorative Arts. (Which, if memory serves correctly, won an award at The Danish National Exhibition of 1909 where the museum purchased it.) See an image on Pinterest here.
More to come...
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