2011 44¢ Pioneers of American Industrial Design –
Greta von Nessen
Issue Date: June 29, 2011
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
A pair of European immigrants – one from Germany and one from Sweden – emerged as two of America’s leading lighting designers in the 1900s. Greta and Walter von Nessen arrived in the United States in 1925 and opened Nessen Studios two years later in New York City. It quickly became a leader in the fledgling industry.
Early in the 20th century, electric lighting was still a relatively new field in home design. Walter had built a reputation in Germany before coming to America. He married Greta, who was the daughter of a Swedish architect. Walter continued the success he enjoyed in Europe, with the development of the “swing arm” lamp as one of his key contributions.
After Walter’s death in 1943, Nessen Studios was closed, but Greta re-opened it after the war ended. In 1951, she made an enormous impact in industrial lighting design with her “Anywhere” lamp.
The lamp is made of aluminum and enameled steel, and has a curving support stand on which hangs a pivotal enameled shade. The lamp’s design allows it to sit upon a flat surface, or to rotate 90 degrees and hang on a wall – to go “anywhere.” Its versatility and functionality in lighting hallmarked the return of Nessen Studios as the forerunner in lighting design under Greta’s direction.