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Today we think of Scandinavian Design as a ubiquitous part of their culture, embodied in sleek and simple lines. An unsung hero at the beginning of the movement was Wiwen Nilsson who would become one of the most important Scandinavian silversmiths of the 20th century. Nilsson was born Charles Edwin Nilsson in Denmark at the end of the 19th century into a silversmithing family. Young Nilsson apprenticed under his father, Anders Nilsson, who worked in an Art Nouveau style, and learned to make jewelry, small work, hollow ware and sculpture. Nilsson came of age in a turbulent time during World War I, choosing to spend time in Germany where he sought out the influences of the Wiener Werkstätte and the Bauhaus. His first exhibition was at the Gothenburg Exhibition in 1923 where he was recognized for his innovative geometric style. Nilsson’s next triumph followed quickly thereafter with the birth of Art Deco in Paris at the 1925 Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes where his silver won a gold medal. Nilsson’s gift for being in the right place at the right time continued upon his return to Scandinavia in the 1930s when he was recognized by The National Museum of Sweden and his position as a pre-eminent silversmith was secured. All was not easy for Nilsson and others labeled Modernists at this time, as there was still a push for a more conservative and  traditional aesthetic. It was not until after World War II and into the 1950s that Scandinavian design became the household concept that it is today. Wiwen Nilsson continued to have a long and successful career with many collections around the world acquiring his work. He died on January 8, 1974.

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