This lighting and furniture designer was born in Germany and emigrated to the US in 1925. In 1927, he opened a studio in New York to design and fabricate architectural lighting. He was soon commissioned by architects to design lighting and other household objects and quickly became one of the pioneers in the new field of industrial design, associating with design luminaries such as Walter Dorwin Teague, Donald Deskey, Gilbert Rohde and Russel Wright.
He excelled in lamp design, and he adopted the modern trends from Art Deco to functionalism. He designed a 1929 hanging fixture with eight concentric rings, alternately black and gold in color, with an indirect reflector. In the 1930s, he designed his most famous lamp—the versatile swing-arm classic—which is still being manufactured today by Nessen Lamps, Inc., successor to Nessen Studios, using von Nessen’s original fabricating methods.
He simultaneously designed furniture and accessories for the Chase Brass & Copper Company, including a tubular chair exhibited at the Metropolitan and Newark Museums in 1929. His work was also shown at the 1934 Metropolitan Museum’s Exhibition of Contemporary American Industrial Art.
After his death, his wife revived his studio following WW II, joined by designer Stanley Wolf who purchased the business in 1954 and continued the Von Nessen tradition with his own designs, as well as designs commissioned from Elizabeth Kauffer and George Nelson in the 1960s.