bold surreal josef frank fabric and furniture design

a designer savy friend is incorporating panels of josef frank’s wallpaper into her new home in florida.  frank’s dramatic designs are clean, crisp and full of color.  my friend is expecting a new baby.  perhaps she feels there should be more perk in the child’s upbringing.  or maybe she is freaking out from her move to florida from europe and this is a coping mechanism…..

Svenskt Tenn at Strandvägen in Stockholm

Svenskt Tenn at Strandvägen in Stockholm displays Frank's furniture and random design style.

frank’s designs come from vienna in the 1920s and then sweden from the 1930s on.  they are remarkable given their time and place.  while the severe minimalist bauhaus designers were becoming vogue, frank and his partners rejected those restrictions but still advanced in a modern direction of their own, adapting various 1800s styles and forms, european and asian.   

vegetable tree, josef frank

vegetable tree, josef frank

 

dixieland, josef frank

dixieland, josef frank

 

Gröna fåglar, cotton

Gröna fåglar, josef frank

 

catleya, josef frank

catleya, josef frank

 

teheran, black, josef frank

teheran, black, josef frank (he made a lot of patterns with an alternate white background)

 

US tree, josef frank

US tree, josef frank

“Mix old and new, colors and forms. Things that you like will all the same melt into a quiet unity. The home does not have to be planned in detail, not artful, just linked together by parts that its occupants enjoy and love.”

Josef Frank (1885-1967)

easy chair 568, josef frank, 1936

easy chair 568, josef frank, 1936

 

easy chair, 336, josef frank

easy chair, 336, josef frank

 

Sofa 968, josef frank

Sofa 968, josef frank

 

chair, josef frank

chair, josef frank

you can see this ‘chuck a whole bunch of unlikely things together’ philosophy in the fabric dsigns themselves.  personally, i do not see it all melting into a quiet unity.  although there are some more mellow designs in their inventory (see many more samples and info about frank at  Svenskt Tenn ) i cannot conceive of an inclusion of his fabrics on chairs or walls in my home without creating a loud disunity.  

fran, where is your sense of adventure?, you might ask. (and i have been asked many times…) sorry, maybe i am a bit dull, but i find the surreal aspects of his designs unsettling.  surrealism  has a disorienting, hallucinatory dreamlike quality.  like reading ‘alice in wonderland’ as a child, or singing along to ‘the yellow submarine’ as a teenager.  wow, strange but cool ideas. then later, when you are a mother reading ‘alice’ to your children, you are relieved to discover that lewis carroll was on drugs when he wrote the book, and so were the beatles much of the time.  ah, you say to yourself, that explains it.  not that you trash alice and the beatles, but they become less marvelous.  

i am not accusing my friend of being on drugs because she likes josef frank’s designs.  i cannot find any evidence that frank was on drugs.  he did live in disorienting times, though.  vienna was a dynamic crossroad of culture and history during his early training.  radical crossroad upbringings can be disorienting.

i wonder what his viennese jewish family suffered while frank and his wife took refuge in sweden from the nazis.  maybe to frank the world was surreal. understandable.   

for myself i need to hold on to truth and real ordered uncluttered design.  i find this settling in an unsettled world.   

but maybe i am looking at this the wrong way.  frank and his partner, estrid ericson, loved life, family, pets, and the ability to rearrange furniture and furnishings often.  they liked to incorporate new things and a variety of styles in one room, as if it had been thrown together by accident.  perhaps i am confusing accidentalism with surrealism.  even so, i find neither very calming….

you should have more color in your life, though, fran, my friends say…..  just spare me from too much pink…

Gösta Glase)

Josef Frank and Estrid Ericson admire Josef Frank’s "Primavera" pattern. (Photo: Gösta Glase)

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One Response to “bold surreal josef frank fabric and furniture design”

  1. John Hopper Says:

    It’s probably not a coincidence that a number of Frank’s more surreal or jazzy type designs, were produced during the Second World War, while he was living in Sweden. To be living in a neutral country surrounded by the carnage produced by the Nazis, must have been a surreal experience in itself, and perhaps equally frightening being a Jew with an uncertain future. What if the Nazis had won the war how safe would Jews in Sweden have really been?

    Perhaps Frank saw his more colourful design work as a foil to the gloom of the war around him.


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