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Before Ikea introduced cheaply made Swedish-designed furnishings to dorm rooms across the globe, there was Swedish architect and designer Greta Magnusson Grossman, an often overlooked founding figure of Swedish modernism. For the first retrospective of her work, the Pasadena Museum of California Art presents Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts, which showcases designs that chronicle Grossman’s remarkable career. Her work fuses Scandinavian minimalism with California modernism, as illustrated by her well-known and widely replicated Grasshopper and Cobra lamp designs.
Desk in walnut and wrought iron with pencil box, 1952. (Courtesy PMCA)
Born in 1906, Grossman was one of the first women to graduate Stockholm’s School for Industrial Design. In 1933 she became the first woman to win an award for furniture design from the Stockholm Craft Association. By 1940 when she moved to California, she already ranked as an accomplished designer. Grossman set up shop in 1941 in Beverly Hills, where she catered to a long list of celebrity clients, including Joan Fontaine and fellow Swede, Greta Garbo. A set of homes designed by Grossman throughout California display spacious floor plans and built-in shelving and overlook spectacular views. Her thoughtful designs are characterized by graceful asymmetric lines, which let functionality take precedence over all else.
Grasshopper floor lamp in coral paint, 1947-48. (Courtesy PMCA)
Two-shaded white table lamp in aluminum and steel, 1947-48. (Courtesy PMCA)
Dresser in black laminate and walnut, 1952. (Courtesy PMCA)