True Nordic: How Scandinavia Influenced Design in Canada Nordique: L’Influence du design scandinave au Canada

October 28, 2017 - February 4, 2018

Lars Dressler and Jason Dressler, Brothers Dressler

Branches Chandelier, 2009

white oak

Courtesy of Brothers Dressler

This ground-breaking exhibition examines the significant influence of Scandinavian craft and industrial design on the development of Canadian culture. Spanning more than seven decades, True Nordic reveals how Scandinavian design was introduced in Canada and how its aesthetics and material forms were adopted, revised and transformed. Featuring a wide array of furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass and metalwork, the exhibition offers a critical survey of Canadian design practices from the 1930s to the present.


Canadians first became aware of Scandinavian design through travelling exhibitions, designer showrooms and articles and advertisements in popular magazines, but its significant influence on Canadian design and craft production can be attributed to the influx of immigrants from the region during the Depression and after the Second World War. These new Canadians—often trained in the craft traditions of their homeland—introduced local audiences to a modern and functional aesthetic that privileged natural materials, simplicity of shape and expressive imagery. Canadians, who share a similar climate, topography and democratic government with their Nordic counterparts, admired these pragmatic and rational objects devised for everyday use and began to emulate their material and formal qualities in goods created for the Canadian marketplace. The result was a new national design language that continues to influence artisans working today.


Featuring more than 100 prototypes, designer originals and limited edition and mass-produced wares, True Nordic highlights the enduring legacy of Scandinavian design principles in Canada. Designers will include Niels Bendtsen, Bocci, Karen Bulow, Kjeld and Erica Deichmann, Thor Hansen, Andrew Jones, Janis Kravis, molo, Carl Poul Petersen, Rudolph Renzius and Marion Smith, among many others.

Organized by the Gardiner Museum, Toronto and curated by Rachel Gotlieb and Michael Prokopow

  • Lotte Bostlund, Bostlund Industries
    Lamp, c. 1964
    ceramic with paint, spun nylon
    Private Collection
    Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

  • Kjeld Deichmann and Erica Deichmann
    Goofus, 1950–63
    stoneware with oatmeal glaze
    Collection of the Gardiner Museum, Gift of Gail and Gerry Crawford
    Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

  • Attributed to Sigrun Bülow-Hübe, AKA Furniture Co. Ltd.
    AKA Chair, c. 1953
    Private collection
    Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Supporting Sponsor:
This project is supported by the Museums Assistance Program at Canadian Heritage/Ce projet est appuyé dans le cadre du Programme d’aide aux musées de Patrimoine canadien


True Nordic: How Scandinavia Influenced Design in Canada

Co-published by the Gardiner Museum and Black Dog Publishing, 2016
Softcover, 128 pages
73 colour reproductions
Editor: Paula Sarson
Contributers: George Baird, Rachel Gotlieb, Mark Kingwell, Michael Prokopow

Available at the Gallery Store.