Verner Panton (1926-1998) studied architectural engineering at Odense Technical School in Denmark before completing an architectural degree at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1951.
He worked for Arne Jacobsen’s architectural office from 1950-1952 on, amongst other things, Jacobsen’s now-famous Ant chair. It’s been suggested, however, that he wasn’t the most diligent of workers, due to his preoccupation with his own design projects.
After travelling through Europe in a Kombi van which he converted into a mobile studio, Panton established his own office in 1955, and his Tivoli and Bachelor chairs were put into production by Fritz Hansen that year.
His maverick tendencies were revealed when his Cone chair was shown at the 1959 Fredericia Furniture Fair hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
His most recognisable and iconic design is the Panton chair (1967), which is credited with being the first single-form injection-moulded plastic chair.
In 1970, he designed Visiona II for Bayer at the Cologne Furniture Fair, transforming a ship moored on the Rhine River into a fantastical ‘living environment’ complete with carpets, rug wall panels, lights and furniture.
Panton is best remembered for his radical Pop Art designs and his use of strong, vibrant colours, yet in the 1970s and 1980s his work featured many products made from fine rods of chromed steel.
This aesthetic was an extension of his earlier works, such as the Wire Cone and Peacock chairs from 1960.
He won numerous design awards during his career, including the A.I.D. International Design Award in 1963, 1968 and 1981, before his death in 1998 at the age of 72.
Panton wanted his work to have a sense of fun and to excite those who saw or used it. His futuristic Pop Art approach was at odds with Denmark’s plethora of revered modernists.
Instead of the soft organic look of Finn Juhl and Hans J. Wegner, Panton used bold colours and hard plastic. His furniture pieces featured upholstered, sweeping biomorphic shapes or were pared down to fine chrome rods with precariously positioned cushions.
Best known for
Panton’s earliest works to garner world attention were the Cone and Heart Cone chairs designed for the restaurant in his parents’ guesthouse in 1958. The brightly upholstered cone with a flat-cross metal base shook Denmark’s fine craft-based furniture establishment.
The moulded-plastic Panton chair, Panton’s most famous piece, did away with any visible legs and could be neatly stacked. It was produced by Vitra for Herman Miller from 1967 to 1979, and has now been reissued by Vitra in a more economical polypropylene form.
Panton is also famous for his lighting, such as the Panthella table and floor light (1971) and the Moon pendant (1960).
More iconic designers: