Top Danish designer: an 'escape' to beauty

He could be a painter, he says, sitting in a room full of lively blue and white porcelain -- a graphic artist plumbing the depths of the human soul on canvas. But he wouldn't be happy.

And if anything is obvious from a glance at Bjoern Wiinblad's work, or at his slightly cherubic, effervescent face, it's that he is happy.

Mr. Wiinblad is now perhaps the best-known decorative artist, as he calls himself, in Denmark. As a young man, he became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that painting could be ugly and still be great painting.

So he 'sort of escaped" into design, where the whole purpose is beauty. "It's more my nature."

Wiinblad has designed porcelain tableware for West Germany's Rosenthal, said to be the world's largest porcelainmaker, since 1957. In March he completed the new official poster for Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. He has recently done interiors for several public rooms in a Dallas luxury hotel, the Anatole. He is now doing the scenery for a German production of Benjamin Britten's opera "Midsummer Night's Dream." An exhibition of his work is coming up this fall at New York's Bloomingdale's.

Behind his success? "I love to entertain."

"I do everything I do as if I do it for myself," he says. "That's why I think what I've done for Rosenthal has been so popular. . . . "I think you have to have a feeling for hospitality to design porcelain."

Over a sumptuous lunch at his Blue House in a Copenhagen suburb, at which Mr. Wiinblad joins the maid in carrying trays to and from the kitchen, he describes himself as never having grown past the stage where he likes to give things to his aunts which will surprise them.

He brings up the question of commercialism himself. It lies not in the price or quantity of a piece of design, he explains, but in "how the man who does it thinks of it -- the ideas invested in it."

Although a Wiinblad tapestry may cost 100,000 Danish crowns ($15,000) after four months on a Portuguese loom, he says that some of his favorite work is on wrapping paper.

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