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Since Georg Jensen founded his silversmith workshop in 1904, jewellery from the workshop has adhered to his motto: "Do not follow fashion, but be guided by the present if you want to stay young in the struggle". Ever since then, Georg Jensen's jewellery has reflected the period in which it was created. Just as the last century was distinguished by different periods, Georg Jensen's jewellery represents the different styles that appeared over the years.
In 1904 the Danish silversmith Georg Jensen founded his first modest silversmithy in the heart of Copenhagen. When he died in 1935, the New York Herald Tribune saluted him as "The greatest silversmith of the last 300 years". Georg Jensen revitalised the silversmith's calling by uniting art and craft. He treated the material with the greatest respect. He had a sensitive, artistic nature combined with a personality full of enthusiasm and tenacity. Perhaps his greatest achievement was not to be satisfied just to realise his own talent. He went a step further and created a tradition, an inspiring and demanding framework for creative artists and proud craftsmen. For this reason Georg Jensen is more than just one man's name today. It is a concept synonymous with excellent Danish decorative art and design throughout the world. Goldsmith, sculptor and silversmith Georg Jensen became a silversmith when he was already a mature man. He was 37 years old when he decided on a life in silver and founded his silver smithy in a small workshop in Bredgade 36 in Copenhagen.
He was born in 1866, the son of a blacksmith in Raadvad, north of Copenhagen. Raadvad, a place of outstanding beauty, was to inspire his art throughout his life. At 14 he began to train as a goldsmith, but he devoted his spare time to working in clay and modelling sculptures. He wanted to be a sculptor. As soon as he was fully trained as a goldsmith he entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. He graduated in 1892. His first major work, "The Harvester", can still be seen outside Georg Jensen Silversmiths which today is situated at Royal Copenhagen's headquarters in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen.
It was difficult to earn a living as a sculptor so Georg Jensen started a small pottery workshop with Christian Joachim. Christian Joachim later became known for his revival of Danish faience. Georg Jensen Silversmiths sees the light of day. In 1900 a large travelling grant from the Academy gave Georg Jensen the freedom to spend two years in Italy and France. There he experienced new styles and discovered how artistic strength and will can be applied to everyday objects. The years abroad were liberating for him.
In 1904, after a few years as leader of a silver smithy, he rented a small workshop in Bredgade 36. Georg Jensen Silversmiths became a reality. He produced belt buckles and brooches in silver.
Inspired by the then dominant style of Art Noveau, he creates his own personal style combining the sculptor's strong and free lines with the silversmith's sensitive feeling for the material. His works are characterised by his fertile, creative imagination, and he works the silver without preconceived ideas. It has been said of Georg Jensen that he never followed fashion, he created it.
Georg Jensen soon became fashionable with Copenhagen's high society. The customers began to stream in, especially after an exhibition at the Danish Museum of Decorative Arts in the autumn of 1904. It was predominately his jewellery which created a sensation. Georg Jensen let his imagination run wild with fruits and flowers using his favourite stones: golden amber, clear blue moonstone, green agate, blue lapis lazuli, red coral, black onyx and deep red cornelian. And he was the first to systematically use oxidation for an aesthetic effect. He created deep soft shades on the surface of the silver which made the shiny silver a mellow grey with black shadows in the design hollows. After a while he was able to make larger investments in raw materials - the costly silver - and began to hammer out larger pieces of hollowware: Jugs, dishes, centre pieces and candle holders.
In Georg Jensen's workshop was a sign with the words: "Do not follow fashion, but be guided by the present if you want to stay young in the struggle." This sentence was not only a motto for Georg Jensen but also for the Georg Jensen Silversmiths in the years to come. When Georg Jensen opened his modest workshop in 1904, he had just one assistant to help him. As time went by he surrounded himself with a staff of talented colleagues and thus from the very beginning he laid the foundation for a definite artistic and artisan morale. He soon expanded. First in Bredgade, then in Knippelbrogade where he moved in 1912.
In 1917 he built his own workshop on Østerbro, large enough to hold many hundreds of employees.Even when there were many employees, every single one was affected by the special spirit which to this day ensures the high artistic standards and artisan qualities of the silver smithy.
When Georg Jensen died in 1935, his small workshop had developed into a worldwide company where inspired artistic and talented craftsmen carried on the tradition. His ideas survived him through the employees he had trained, and these employees have since trained new generations. His death did not put a stop to the company which bears his name. He had left an established company with a viable tradition which both craftsmen and artists with their different temperaments and talents respected and continued together.