Danish-Finnish ceramic artist, designer, and sculptor Gunnar Nylund (1904-1997) is one of the most renowned ceramicists of the 20th century. He is best known for his work with Swedish brand Rörstrand, one of the oldest ceramics manufacturers in Europe.
Born in Paris to a Danish mother and a Finnish-Swedish father, Nylund relocated several times before reaching adulthood. He fled the civil war in Finland to Denmark, where he completed his schooling in 1923. He then studied and apprenticed in ceramics in Helsinki before returning once more to Copenhagen to study architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
While enrolled at the academy, Nylund continued to practice ceramics with his father, who was a sculptor. He also took on extra work at the Bing & Gröndahl (B&G) porcelain factory, which was located next to the Royal Copenhagen factory (they later merged). Nylund's contributions to exhibits at the 1925 Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes expo in Paris led B&G to offer him a permanent position; Nyland dropped his architectural studies for the job. Following a three-year stint at B&G working under the guidance of Jean Gauguin, Nyland left in 1928 to establish the Nylund-Krebs studio with Nathalie Krebs. The duo's pioneering Saxbo range (1929) has become an icon of Scandinavian ceramic design.
The studio rebranded as Saxbo in 1930 to capitalize on the success of the collection successful collection. After two years, Nyland left to become the Artistic Director of Swedish company Rörstrand, a position he held until sometime between 1955 and 1959. During his tenure at Rörstrand, Nyland became known for smooth matte glazes, beautiful muted colors, and modernist shapes; he produced hundreds of designs for decorative objects, vases, pitchers, and tableware services.
Nylund also held the Artistic Director position in Strömbergshyttans glassworks in Sweden from circa 1954 to '67, alongside freelancing for the Nymölle ceramics factory in Denmark and the Glimma glassworks in Glimåkra, Sweden.
In addition to designing tableware and accessories for industrial production, Nylund was also an accomplished sculptor and was commissioned for many public works throughout his career. Many sculptures are housed in Swedish museums, including the National Museum in Stockholm, Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg, Malmö Art Museum, Höganäs Museum (which bought Nylund’s entire stoneware portfolio), Rörstrand Museum in Lidköping. The collections of the Danish Museum of Art & Design, Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga, and the National Ceramics Museum of Sèvres in Paris also own Nyland designs.