Decorative Art (1897-1935)
While modern art took a new turn, Johan Rohde retained his idiom. Although his paintings after 1900 were no longer in step with modern art, they are an important precondition for his work with decorative art. This is an aspect that is often overlooked because the renewal in his art after 1900 relates to his furniture design, silver and book-binding. Rohde's contribution in the design field was impressive. For instance, in the Danish Museum of Decorative Art there are hundreds of drawings with rough sketches of everything from key bows, monograms, decorative patterns and plant pots, lamps and curtain rods to entire interiors including furnishings for bedrooms, sitting rooms and work rooms and even fountains and tombstones. The same applies to all the more or less rough sketches for silver, including jewellery, writing sets, hollowware, clocks etc. and decorative patterns for book bindings. Then there are all the carefully finished drawings for the same objects, frequently done in pencil and watercolour and often real works of art in themselves. Rohde started to design furniture in 1897. At first, he designed mostly for himself and his closest friends, but with his growing success, not least after exhibiting furniture in the 1900 World Fair, he began to receive numerous commissions for furniture.
Rohde's works in the realm of furniture were also of essential importance to the history of design, although this part of his oeuvre is less well known today. However, his furniture is an interesting expression of his meeting with a range of Antique/Classical and Japanese-inspired qualities. These were primarily reflected in design details, in his work with exotic kinds of wood, in decorative intarsia and in the exclusive, perfect craftsmanship of the cabinet makers Otto Meyer, J.P. Mørck and especially H.P and L. Larsen Bros.
Meanwhile, Rohde's works in silver attracted international attention. He worked together with Mogens Ballin at the beginning of the 20th century, but in 1906 he started collaboration with the silversmith Georg Jensen, and so this is the important part of Rohde's work that has attracted attention abroad. In his exquisite works in silver, Rohde was in many ways at the forefront of contemporary trends. His works in silver, especially his hollowware, are closely related to the skønvirke style of the time, but in the best of these works there is a simplicity and a respect for the potential of the material that point the way forward to the functionalism that was only to become modern in painting, decorative art and architecture decades later. Several objects that are characterised by timeless design are still in production by Georg Jensen.
Rohde's work with book craft is less well known. He was closely associated with the circle around the xylographer F. Hendriksen (1847-1938), the founder of the Society for Book Craft, which was founded in 1888. The aim of the association was "to create interest in the production of the book and to raise the level of the book's form", and on the basis of this objective Rohde created a number of remarkable book bindings with graphic patterns reminiscent of the ornamentation in his furniture.