Verner Panton (1926 – 1988) remains one of the most popular designers of the 1960s, whose work reached through the realms of furniture, fabrics, colours and lighting. Born in Denmark and moving to Switzerland after having established himself, he worked innovatively and differently to challenge the norms. Panton was from a small town on an island in Denmark and dreamed of becoming an artist. His journey can be traced through his locations, as Denmark was a leading design force throughout the 1950s and 1960s and his meeting with Pøul Henningsen, a fellow artist and designer, lead to Panton’s appreciation of design.
Traveling to Copenhagen to study architecture at the Royal Academy of Art in 1947, Verner Panton was exposed to the clean lines and industrial styles that were in vogue at the time. His own work veered away from these aesthetics and associating more with Pop art colours and futuristic shapes. After graduating, Panton worked for Arne Jacobsen and was thus able to establish a relationship with Fritz Hansen to produce some of his early furniture works. It was during this time that Panton became interested in research around plastics and alternative materials, which Jacobsen had also been experimenting with. Panton designed and created the first inflatable furniture, beginning with a blow-up chair made from a thin plastic film. By 1959 and the introduction of Panton’s Cone Chair, his career had developed into a distinctive style that veered away from the organic modernism of his contemporaries. Verner Panton moved to Cannes in 1962, before finally settling in Basel where he worked with Vitra, a European version of the Herman Miller company. Panton’s work has been featured on the covers of magazines, caused scandals in shop windows and exhibited in shows across Europe. His creative influence over the design world opened up a new vocabulary for appreciating colour and playing with shapes.
Verner Panton, 123 Series ‘Lounge Chair’ (circa 1970) H: 84cm W: 62cm D: 70cm, chromed steel and origional KVADRAT fabric, Denmark
The 123 Lounge Chair from the 1-2-3 series was a chair that took three years to develop. As with many designers of his time, Verner Panton was interested in creating new ways for weight distribution that moved away from the norm of four legs as support. Panton aimed for an organic feel, such that the chair would be suitable to numerous environments. The chair was awarded Interior Design magazine's top honor for 2011, after being reintroduced into production by Verpan, a design company who recovered Verner Panton’s designs from his estate.
Verner Panton, ‘S’ chair for Vitra (circa 1980) H: 83cm W: 49cm D: 57cm, moulded white plastic, Vitra Denmark
The Panton ‘S’ Chair is perhaps one of the most famous chairs ever to be made. The chair is an icon of Verner Panton’s skill, while remaining an evocative and sensuous piece that has challenged viewers in many respects. It is revolutionary in its one-part design and use of plastic, meaning it can be easily stacked and cleaned and was inspired by a visit to a hard-hat and bucket making factory. Perhaps its most famous appearance was on the cover of the 1995 British Vogue Magazine, where Kate Moss perched naked and caused a stir.