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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Bing & Grondahl

By Pat Owen

( Article orginally published December 1961 )

The products of Denmark are known the world over, more for quality than for quantity. Certainly this is true of her porcelain industry. Bing & Grondahl, established in 1853, has become famous for turning out some of the finest porcelain pieces in the world.

The company was established when a young sculptor named Grondahl became disgruntled because his employer, The Royal Copenhagen Factory, refused to go along with his suggestion that the figurines of Thorvaldsen (then Denmark's greatest sculptor) be copied in porcelain. Having far more ambition and dreams than money, Grondahl would probably not have gone far had it not been for the insight and initiative of the Bing brothers, M. H. and J. H. Bing were successful businessmen, owning what might today be referred to as a department store. Using the capital and business experience of the Bing brothers and the artistic ideas of Grondahl, the Bing & Grondahl Porcelain factory became a reality.

Unfortunately Mr. Grondahl died about a year and a half after the company was started. The Bing brotners found continuing the business a struggle for several years, succeeding only when skilled draftsmen were brought in from abroad. Gradually the company gained a foothold in the Danish market, and eventually their fame began to spread to other countries.

About 1890 Bing & Grondahl learned the secrets of underglaze painting. Before that time the company had made many beautiful objects such as dinnerware, vases and figurines, but they had always been made in either "biscuit" (unglazed) porcelain or over-glaze. In 1899 Bing & Grondahl created quite a stir in the artistic world by showing its new stately "Heron" Service designed by Pietro Krohn, and executed in the new medium of underglaze painting. Even earlier the company made use of its new process by bringing out Christmas Plates. The idea of issuing a plate each year was conceived by Harald Bing, then head of the factory. The traditional color is a purplish-blue. The first plate was placed on the market shortly before Christmas in the year 1895 and bore the date and the inscription "Jule Aften" (Danish for "Christmas Eve"). Each year since a new plate has been issued and only a limited number made before the mold is destroyed. Surely Mr. Bing never visualized how many collectors these plates would attract!

During the next few decades the company had several great artists in its employ, including J.F. Willismen, Kai Neilsen and Jean Gauguin. During this period the company received the Grand Prix several times, thereby winning wide acclaim.

Bing & Grondahl exhibited stoneware for the first time in 1914. Large scale production in this field has never been attempted, however, since each object requires so much individual treatment. In 1925 Bing & Grondahl also started making the so-called "soft porcelain" which the factory had succeeded in producing after much experimentation.

About ten years ago the company created a second iactory which is devoted exclusively to manufacturing dinnerware. Blng & Grondahl also operates a retail store in the heart of the Copenhagen shopping district.

Throughout its more than 100 years, the management of the company has remained in the hands of one and the same family. The present director, Poul Simonsen, is descended from one of the Bing founders. Today the company employs approximately 1200 persons and in the case of many of tne workers, one generation has often succeeded another.

Bing & Grondahl has, in thecourse of the years, achieved the honor of being appointed to the Royal Courts of Denmark, Sweden and Great Britain. In many of the world's noted museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, can be found pieces made by the company. Truly it can now be said that pieces with the trademark of the three towers can be found in every land where men prize gracious living.

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