Artists + Designers Motivational Monday

Motivational Monday: Josef Frank

June 22, 2015

Oh another Monday, but don’t worry I have a Motivation Monday for you!

Today is a feature on Josef Frank.Modern Colorist | Josef FrankAn Austrian-born architect, artist, and designer, Josef Frank fled to Sweden to escape Nazi Austria. He would become known as one of the leading pioneers and for Swedish Modern design and one of Sweden’s most important designers of all time.

Modern Colorist | Josef FrankBorn in Austria in 1885, the architect belonged to the same generation as the most prominent pioneers of modernist design, including Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier.  Like his contemporaries, he was passionately committed to shaping a new era. The machine age brought new technologies and lifestyles would have an affect on the way buildings and interiors were designed.

Early in age he was part of front figure of Vienna Modernism’s. Together with Oskar Strnad, he created the Vienna School of Architecture. There he started to question systematic Modernism. The Modernist’s principal was that a house should be a “machine for living in”. It was based on a linear, grid-like restrictions. Frank disagreed with and even feared this type of design. He believed it would make people all too similar.Modern Colorist | Josef Frank

Frank had a freer mindset, a more artistic style in which he developed his own type of Modernism.

“Every human needs a certain degree of sentimentality to feel free. Away with the universal styles, away with the equalization of industry and art.” – Josef Frank

For Frank, modern design should be simple, straightforward, and practical. He believed, however, that such modern precepts should not preclude character and comfort. He focused on his own personal values such as comfort, hominess, and an abundance of color. He perceived tubular steel furniture as a threat to humanity. Rather he contrasted by including nature’s colors and forms into his interiors. He wanted his living space to be a place of relaxation and at the same time to be harmonize with tradition and  development; in contact with nature, but also with culture and refinement. He wanted the space to be breathable, and even feel free from an enclosed room.

To look at his furniture you can see this style coming through. His chairs have space to see through them, his cabinets have long legs to see the floor and the wall. Nothing bulky or heavy. Modern Colorist | Josef FrankModern Colorist | Josef Frank

He embraced personal touches, sentimentality, and asymmetry, outfitting interiors with boldly patterned upholstery, traditional furniture forms, off-grid furnishing arrangements, and motley displays of assorted decorative objects.

Frank argued:

“There’s nothing wrong with mixing old and new, with combining different furniture styles, colors and patterns. Anything that is in your taste will automatically fuse to form an entire, relaxing environment. A home does not need to be planned down to the smallest detail or contrived; it should be an amalgamation of the things that its owner loves and feels at home with.”

Modern Colorist | Josef FrankFrank’s idea of color was also contrary to the Modernist movement. While the rest were pushing a stark monochromatic environment.

Frank wrote:

“The monochromatic surface appears uneasy, while patterns are calming, and the observer is unwillingly influenced by the slow, calm way it is produced. The richness of decoration cannot be fathomed so quickly, in contrast to the monochromatic surface which doesn’t invite any further interest and therefore one is immediately finished with it.”

He rejected sterile, stark white and stern environments and went for light and airy colors instead. The yellows, the light blues, the soft greens and pinks.Modern Colorist | Josef FrankHe gained recognition after joining Estrid Ericson’s design company Svenskt Tenn (Swedish Pewter) in 1934. The duo made international breakthrough with their Svenskt Tenn exhibition room at the World’s Expositions in Paris in 1937 and in New York in 1939. It was completely contrary to the ideal of the time with its bold contrast in materials, color, and patterns.

Modern Colorist | Josef FrankEricson helped inspire Frank to conceptualize and produce a distinctive body of work at Svenskt Tenn. The two complemented each other, Frank producing the textiles and furnishings, Ericson arranging the interiors and overseeing the company. Together, they formed a dynamic partnership, creating imaginative, comfortable, and harmonious interiors. This new, more accessible approach to interior design became known as Swedish Modern.Modern Colorist | Josef FrankDuring WWII, Josef Frank was forced to exile yet again. He moved to Manhattan where he started growing trees and flowers. The product of those trees and flowers can be seen in his textile designs. With these fanciful designs inspired of nature, his patterns were his magic. In their generous scale and lavish use of bright, bold colors, and florals, Franks patterns quickly became popular with a host of Swedish designers and clientele. Today he is most remembered for these patterns, and many are still in production.Modern Colorist | Josef FrankHe had an extremely productive career with Svenskt Tenn’s; giving over 2,000 furniture sketches and 160 textile designs signed with his name in Svenskt Tenn’s archives.

It was because man who was driven out of his home, who brought his design richness of his culture to Sweden. It was because he never forgot where he came from and never forgot his goals and desires. It was because he question the Modernist streak. And because of that man that Swedish Modern is what we know it today.

Sources: Svenskt Tenn | Scandinavian Design | The Enduring Design of Josef Frank | Architect and Outsider | Enduring Design Advice From Moderate Modernist Josef Frank

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