AE Hjorth Archive

The Axel Einar Hjorth Archive collect and spread information about the work of the swedish architect AE Hjorth. 

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Christian Björk +46 736 220 888

Thomas Ekström +46 704 414 264

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Axel Einar Hjorth

Axel Einar Hjorth was born March 7, 1888 in Krokek outside Norrköping. He spent his
first years alone with his mother in very modest circumstances. When he was twelve
his life changed dramatically: he was placed as a foster-child with a well off family.
At the age of twenty, in 1908, he moved to Stockholm. There he started studying at
Högre Konstindustriella Skolan – later to be "Konstfack". At the death of his stepfather,
and left with no heritage, he was forced to break off his studies without examination.
In 1914 Axel Einar Hjorth married Gunelia Wessberg. Their marriage remained childless
but placed Axel Einar Hjorth yet again amongst the bourgeoisie.

Around 1920 Axel Einar Hjorth worked as a furniture designer with different manufacturers
such as H. Joop & co, Myrstedt & Stern, Jonssons – and in 1920, for a short spell at the
furniture design office of Nordiska Kompaniet under the architect carl Bergsten. Roughly
at the same time, he started working with Stockholms stads hantverksförening. This
collaboration was running simultane- ously with other commissions and employments
right up to 1929.

For just over a year Axel Einar Hjorth worked as the head of the assembly section of
Jubileumsutställningen (the Jubilee Exhibition) in Gothenburg 1923. The English critic
P. Morton Shand has characterized this exhibition as the be- ginning of the breakthrough
of Swedish decorative arts. "The Gothenburg Exhibition of 1923 revealed [...] that [Sweden
was] almost the only one that really counted as far as design and craftmanship were
concerned."As the head of the mounting section, Axel Einar Hjorth combined the products
of the exhibitors with the overall valid aesthetic idea of the exhibition's management. The
display of goods at the Gothenburg exhibition was consequently by large the work of
Axel Einar Hjorth. At this Exhibition he also had furniture of his own displayed. Made by,
among others, Svenska Möbelfabrikerna in Bodafors which became one of Axel Einar
Hjorth's major customers and they had models of his in production right up to the forties.

In 1925 Axel Einar Hjorth and David Nilsson jointly co-ordinated Stock- holms stads
hantverksförenings jubileumsutställning at Liljevalchs konsthall. As the architect of the exhibition
as well as the creator of four different interior schemes, Axel Einar Hjorth was not able to
participate in the Paris exhibition that year – nor was Stockholms stads hantverksförening.
However, he, together with carl Hörvik and carl Malmsten, represented Stockholms stads
hantverksförening at the exhibition of contemporary Swedish Decorative Arts at the
Metropolitan Museum in New York 1927. This was an exhibition that came about through
Sweden's successful participation at the Paris exhibition in 1925 and that came to have great
commercial importance for Swedish decorative arts in America. Thus Axel Einar Hjorth was
well respected before his employment at Nordiska Kompaniet and to a large extent part of
the international breakthrough of Swedish design. The professional activity of Axel Einar
Hjorth coincides with a span of time characterized by changes and improvements in Swedish
society as a whole and particularly in Swedish industrial art.

Whilst several of Axel Einar Hjorth's contemporary colleagues have indeed received great
attention in the history of Swedish architecture and design, it seems he has been treated rather
parsimoniously.One reason for this could be that Axel Einar Hjorth himself did not do anything
to assure remembrance. He did not publish anything and left no known archives. Another, more
complex, reason is that Swedish design history is synonymous with the history of Svenska
Slöjdföreningen (the Swedish Society of crafts and Design) This history is, in its turn, based on the
selection of sources and articles printed in the society's own magazine. The furniture of Axel Einar
Hjorth had aesthetic expressions that were well in accordance with their time but simultaneously
very distant from the socially oriented ideas characterizing the activities of Svenska Slöjdföreningen.
consequently critics representative of the dominating, socially engaged spirit, rejected the more
exclusive industrial art of the 20s through the 40s.

For more than 10 years, from October 1927, Axel Einar Hjorth acted as the chief designer/architect
at Nordiska Kompaniet. During the years between the wars Nordiska Kompaniet was one of the
most important furniture producers in Sweden and above all, the most exclusive one. Nordiska
Kompaniet and Axel Einar Hjorth took part in most of the important national as well as international
exhibitions of that time. Among these are the Barcelona exhibition of 1929, the Stockholm exhibition
(1930), the exhibition at the Dorland House in London (1931) and the world exhibitions in chicago 1933,
in Brussels 1935 and Paris 1937. In addition to this, Axel Einar Hjorth also prepared and curated
exhibitions at the department store itself every year.

In Barcelona, Axel Einar Hjorth was the architect and designer both of the 300 square metre exhibition
for Nordiska Kompaniet and for the administrative premises of Sweden. The exhibits of Nordiska
Kompaniet, inclusive of floor and walls, were prepared and produced in Sweden, overseen by Axel
Einar Hjorth. Historically however, the Swedish participation in Barcelona has in a way fallen into obscurity
due to the predominant German pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. At the Stockholmexhibition in 1930, and
with the break through of Modernism in Sweden, Axel Einar Hjorth was one of the most abundantly
represented designers. His pieces of furniture for Nordiska Kompaniet were characterized by craftsmanship
of high quality and advanced combinations of material. The furniture was manufactured for a financially
strong clientele with modern demands - but it sharply contrasted the social program that in many ways
was typical for the exhibition.

The position as chief architect at Nordiska Kompaniet also meant that he received quite a few commissions
to create interiors although the company had a separate department for this purpose. Among the most
striking commissions performed by Axel Einar Hjorth were the railway trains of the Shah of Persia and
Nordiska Kompaniet's Paris shop. Axel Einar Hjorth left Nordiska Kompaniet in order to start his own business in February
1938 – one month ahead of his fiftieth birthday From 1938

Axel Einar Hjorth carried on working, alternating between running a shop and managing a architect office.
At the end of the 1940s he was forced, financially, to seek em- ployment again, this time as chief designer
at aski, a company producing simple office furniture and interiors. Along with his work at aski he, in a modest
way, carried on his architect office up to the mid fifties. In June 1959 Axel Einar Hjorth passed away after
a sudden illness.

© Christian Björk, Thomas Ekström & Eric Ericson. From Axel Einar Hjorth - Möbelarkitekt. Translation by Per Gunnar Gustafsson