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Martha Nierenberg, Entrepreneur Who Sought Art’s Return, Dies at 96

Mrs. Nierenberg and her mother never lost sight of recovering their artistic birthright, but they were also intent on establishing their new lives in New York. Martha set out to complete her science degree, moving for a time to Cambridge, Mass., to study at Radcliffe and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She met Ted Nierenberg, a Manhattanite and the owner of a metal finishing company, at the Broadway premiere of “Guys and Dolls” in November 1950. They married the following year, moved to Great Neck, on Long Island, and had four children, Lisa, Karin, Peter and Al, all of whom survive their mother. Mr. Nierenberg died in 2009 at 86.

Eager to start a new business, the Nierenbergs toured Europe in 1954 to seek out industrial items for the American market. In Copenhagen, they discovered the work of the Danish designer Jens Quistgaard, who was well-known in Europe for his sleek, elegant everyday flatware.

Enraptured by the Scandinavian modern style, Mr. Nierenberg barged into Mr. Quistgaard’s studio that very day and proposed that they go into business together. As Mrs. Nierenberg recalled, “Ted was often impulsive, and I had to go along with his antics.”

So began a 30-year partnership that saw Dansk extend well beyond cutlery into silverware and tableware; saucepans and casserole dishes made of enamel-coated steel; glazed stoneware; wine glasses; and pitchers, bowls and pepper mills made from exotic woods. With Mr. Quistgaard as chief designer and Mr. Nierenberg as head of marketing, the brand achieved international success by taking aim at high-end buyers with slogans like “Expensive … by Design.”

The Nierenbergs, by then living in an expansive glass and timber home surrounded by woodlands in Armonk, N.Y., retired in 1985 and sold the company and its 31 retail stores to their employees. Dansk is now owned by Lenox China.

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