Design Icon

Design Icon: Cubic Coffee Service

by Maxwell Tielman

Design*Sponge | Design Icon: Cubic Tea Service, designed by Erik Magnussen, 1927

Design: Cubic Coffee Service

Designer: Erik Magnussen (Danish, 1884-1961)

Date: 1927

Country of Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Gorham

Materials: Silver with gilding and ivory

Background: Not to be confused with the contemporary designer of the same name, Erik Magnussen was a Danish-born metalsmith working largely in America at the beginning of the twentieth century. Not formally trained, but raised in a highly intellectual atmosphere, Magnussen used avant garde art and the aesthetic zeitgeists of his time to inform much of his work. Produced for the Gorham Manufacturing Company in 1927, this set drew its inspiration from the cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, hence its name. Intended to reflect a certain American sense of modernity, the multifaceted forms of this design seem to reference the Art Deco skyscrapers springing up throughout the nation’s cities at the time, a glitzy and decadent tribute to opulence of the Jazz Age.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

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  • Hi, Max! Longtime reader here, and although I’m an infrequent commenter I just need to say how fantastic this column is. I’m wondering whether you’ve ever considered linking to museums or other institutions who care for & study these objects so readers can learn more about the ones you feature and discover connections to less well-known works of art & design. I work at the RISD Museum in Providence, RI (where Gorham was located), home to an enormous collection of Gorham pieces as well as many of the amazing preparatory sketches and designs. We have this set on view right now and our website links to more of Magnussen’s work and other Gorham pieces in the collection: http://risdmuseum.org/art_design/objects/1087_cubic_coffee_service