Few have have had the same impact on design and the arts as Maire Gullichsen, born Ahlström in 1907 in Pori, Finland. Although she made few designs herself, her contributions through the renowned company Artek and personal patron initiatives greatly impacted the development of the Nordic design scene.
Gullichsen was born into the Ahlström family, one of Finland’s most influential and wealthiest industrial conglomerates. She studied art both in Helsinki and in Paris between 1925 and 1928 and married Harry Gullichsen that same year. They shared a mutual love for modern art as well as applied arts and architecture and it would result in several initiatives and eventually the Pori Art Museum in 1979, where their collection is stored
Gullichsen (together with Ethel Thesleff, Irja Noponen and Saara Castrén) established the Free Art School in 1934, a private school in Helsinki where she also enrolled. The Finnish art scene had stagnated in the 1930s due to nationalistic values and the aim of the Free Art School was to introduce European modernism influences.
The following year she founded Artek, together with architects Alvar and Aino Aalto as well as art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl. Artek’s innovative furniture designs and new approach to interior decoration would over time prove to be strong combination as the modern society developed and craved new and practical furnishing solutions. The Aaltoes and the Gullichsens would a few years later work together on crafting one of the most world’s best known architectural creations, Villa Mairea.
Maire Gullichsen designed a few items herself, a series of tumblers and pitchers, a cheese-dish cover as well as a table lamp in glass.
In 1961, Maire Gullichsen partners with designer Bertel Gardberg and recruits Nanny Still and Birgitta Bergh to create Noormarkun Käsityöt or Norrmark Handicraft in her home village just outside of Pori, Finland. The endeavour aimed to strengthen the struggling carpentry industry in the area but this proved to be a daunting task and the company was eventually fusioned with Artek in the mid 1970s.
- Maire Gullichsen (1907 – 1990)
- Founded the Free Art School in Helsinki in 1934
- Co-founded Artek in 1935
- Founded Föreningen Nutidskonst in 1939
- Acted as Galerie Artek’s director 1951–1953
- Managing director at Artek 1955-1958
- Member of the Lunning Prize committee 1956–1971
- Awarded an honorary professor’s title in 1981
- Exhibitions and furnishings arranged by Gullichsen
- Klar Form 1939
- Galerie Artek
- Sam Vanni 1953 and 1955
- Lars-Gunnar Nordström 1952 and 1955
- Birger Carlstedt 1957
- Ernst Mether-Borgström 1958