30s designer Josef Frank
30s designer Josef Frank was born in Austria of Jewish heritage and moved to Stockholm with his Swedish wife in 1933 to flee the Jewish hatred and injustice. He previously ran Haus & Garten based in Vienna, where he designed interiors, houses, furniture and fabrics, but found it a struggle to get established in Sweden as an immigrant.
Luckily for Swedish design and history, Svenskt Tenn founder Estrid Ericson had long been an admirer of Frank, and decided to approach him suggesting he designed for Svenskt Tenn. That was the start of something very unique.
Frank is now best known for his expressive textiles he designed for Swedish Ericson’s firm Svenskt Tenn, where he developed his colourful brand of modernism. He designed 160 prints for the brand, with prints such as vivid flowers, insects and expressive leaves and fruits. Frank also continued to design interiors, using his fantastic prints for chairs, stools, tables, sofas, lamps, glassware and more.
Comfort and personality was of high importance to Frank and he made the most with colours and patterns to build up the warmth of a home. The furniture was designed with comfort for people to best unwind, and the furniture also commonly had rounded edges.
“Frank was interested in livability, and the idea of a humanistic architecture that grew with its inhabitants,” said Ilse Crawford, a British interior designer who has long admired him. “His thinking on design was insightful, human-centered and extremely relevant for our times.”
Yet Frank regarded his career as a disappointment. “It is not what I had imagined and what I wanted and would have been able to do, but rather only what I was able to accomplish under the circumstances,” he wrote in a 1948 letter to a friend. “When I look back it makes me very sad.”
If you happen to be in London between the 28 January – 7 May, make sure to visit the Fashion and Textile Museum for the exhibition “JOSEF FRANK Patterns–Furniture–Painting”.