The Anywhere lamp by Greta Von Nessen

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BORN IN MALMÖ, SWEDEN, in 1898, Greta Von Nessen was the daughter of an architect. She graduated from the School for Industrial Arts in Stockholm, and later married German industrial designer Walter Von Nessen. The couple immigrated to the United States in 1925. Settling in New York, they opened their own design firm, Nessen Studios, Inc., in 1927, specializing in designing and fabricating electric lighting. Walter gained recognition for creating innovative Bauhaus-inspired modernist designs, combining functionalism with new materials, while Greta seemed to stay in the background. This changed after Walter’s death in 1943 when in his mid-fifties. Greta closed the business soon thereafter, but reopened it in 1945.

Greta Von Nessen (1898–1978) ANYWHERE LAMP Manufactured by Nessen Studios, Inc. Enameled sheet steel, aluminum, molded Bakelite, and rubber cord 1951

She revived the production of many of the firm’s designs, and went on to introduce inventive new lamps of her own. The Anywhere lamp of 1951 is one of these. With its smooth, curved form made of industrial materials, and its minimal use of color, the lamp is a prime example of postwar modernism applied to lighting design. This highly functional form is composed of three basic elements: a domeshaped enameled metal shade over a bulb-housing mounted on a curved tubular metal base. The shade and housing pivot, allowing the light to be directed. Greta’s versatile lamp can be positioned in a variety of ways—to be placed “anywhere”; it can sit on a table or desk, be mounted as a wall sconce, or suspended from the ceiling. The lamp, offered in a variety of colors, was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design exhibition of 1952, and the exhibition catalogue noted that it was available at such retailers as Georg Jensen for about $29.50. The utility and elegant simplicity of the Anywhere lamp preserve the legacy of Greta Von Nessen, a strong mid-twentieth-century designer and the subject of a 2011 postage stamp featuring the lamp, part of the US Postal Service’s “Pioneers of American Industrial Design” series. As a further testament to Von Nessen’s abilities, the firm survives to this day, known as Nessen Lighting.

Cynthia Trope
Associate Curator, Product Design and Decorative Arts
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum,
New York