Jens H. Quistgaard
Jens H. Quistgaard, was a celebrated Danish industrial designer whose clean-lined and immensely popular pieces for the Dansk brand of tableware helped define the Scandinavian Modern style for postwar Americans.
Today a division of the Lenox Group, Dansk was founded in 1954 by Ted Nierenberg, an American entrepreneur and engineer. Originally based in Great Neck, N.Y., the company quickly became known for making sophisticated European styles accessible to the average American consumer. Working from his studio in Copenhagen, Mr. Quistgaard designed for Dansk from its inception until the mid-1980s.
A largely self-taught craftsman, Mr. Quistgaard was known for his fluid lines and for using unusual materials, often in combination. His signature pieces included salad bowls and cutting boards of teak and other exotic woods, and elegant stainless-steel flatware that was an affordable alternative to sterling silver.
Mr. Quistgaard’s bowls were often made from separate staves of wood arranged in a circle, much as barrels are built. This used less wood than turning the bowls on a lathe and gave them striking radial lines in the process.
He was also one of the first designers to rehabilitate enameled steel as a medium for cookware. For years enameled steel pots were considered lowbrow — flimsy speckled things that were at home over a campfire but not in a bourgeois kitchen.
Seeking a pot that would be lighter and less expensive than cast iron, Mr. Quistgaard created the Kobenstyle line of steel cookware, which Dansk released in 1956. Sturdy, yet light and graceful, it was enameled in a range of vivid solid colors, including an intoxicating fire-engine red. As a sign that the pots were handsome enough to be put on the table, their lids, with distinctive flat cruciform handles, doubled as trivets.
As a young man, Mr. Quistgaard served an apprenticeship at Georg Jensen, the well-known Danish silversmiths. During World War II, he was a member of the Danish underground.
In 1954 Mr. Nierenberg was visiting Copenhagen, where he caught sight of hand-forged flatware by Mr. Quistgaard in a museum. It was made of stainless steel with teak handles, an unusual marriage of materials at the time. He sought out Mr. Quistgaard, persuaded him that his singular creations could be properly mass-produced, and Dansk was born.
His work, which won many international awards, is in the permanent collections of major museums, among them the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Louvre.