Dan Johnson : Sculptural Modernism – Post War California Furniture Designer

The majority of the postwar California furniture designers found inspiration in free-form biomorphic shapes with forward-looking parabolic forms utilizing experimental materials, designer Dan Johnson (1918-1979) was an exception. While Johnson’s earlier furniture pieces (late 1940s) looked more familiar, with folded planes of wood, blocky modern forms, and integrated pulls, his style drastically shifted after moving to Rome in the mid-1950s. Opening Dan Johnson Studio, he began creating pieces marked by their elegant sculptural form, looking back to Roman antiquity to find inspiration. Working in cast bronze, Johnson designed a series of spectacular sculptural pieces with his most well-known being the Gazelle chair. This mid-century silhouette combines function with a rare curvilinear shape. The graceful Gazelle chairs and tables were likely inspired by the animals depicted in early Roman hunting scenes. Johnson later wrote to a friend, he is taking “a modern approach to the ancient Roman stuff I appreciated so much.”

Dan Johnson lounge chair

This early rare Dan Johnson lounge chair utilizes an iron frame and steam bent walnut plywood armrest to create an elegant shape, c. early 1950s.

Dan Johnson Satyr table

Inspired by Johnson’s residency in Rome, this Satyr table and four Gazelle chairs are a truly fantastic set. Cast in bronze with cane seats and backs, the blue-green patina, aged finish shows the influence of his connection to the past.

Dan Johnson - Hayden Hall Furniture

A beautiful example of California modern design. This early Dan Johnson drop-leaf table for Hayden Hall Furniture is constructed of solid mahogany, c. 1947.

Dan Johnson Gazelle armchair

Johnson’s signature piece, the Gazelle armchair, in cast bronze with cane seats and backs, c. 1950s.

Dan John - Hayden Hall table

Another early piece from Johnson, created for Hayden Hall of Alhambra, California. Classic California mid-century, with integrated pulls in solid maple, c. 1947.

Dan Johnson lounge chair

Johnson lounge chair, model 2750. Cantilevered seat with bent enameled steel frame, seat, back and arms wrapped in rope, c. 1950.

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