Harald Arnkil’s‘ talk traces the influence of art on Alvar Aalto’s use of colours in his architecture and furniture designs. Together with Maire Gullichsen and Nils Gustav Hahl, Alvar and Aino Aalto founded the furniture and interior company Artek in 1935. The company, now owned by Vitra, still has in its catalogue many of the classic Alvar Aalto designs from the 1930s, -40s and 50s, which testifies to their timeless quality.


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Alvar Aalto’s numerous and life-long contacts with some of the most important European modern and avant-garde artists influenced his approach to form and colour. Aalto was a radical modernist and a cosmopolitan at a time when most of Finnish art and culture looked inwards and favoured nationalistic themes and ideas. Aalto’s significance internationally is in his humanism, his harnessing of modernism and rationalism to serve the “biological needs” of ordinary people. Another notable theme in Aalto’s architecture is the relation between buildings and nature. A story unfolds, starting from Aalto’s Classicist influences in his earliest surviving works in the 1920’s, The use of colors in his groundbreaking functionalist buildings in the late ‘20s and ‘30s and ending with the more subdued material colors of his mature years. Most of Alvar Aalto’s furniture and their colors were created in context with these architectural projects.