Josef Frank 1885–1967

Josef Frank was one of the most prolific designers of the 20th century known for his work in the fields of furniture, textiles, and architecture. Frank was born in the town Baden near Vienna where he grew up in a tactile household with his father, a textile merchant, and his mother, a skilled sewer. In 1903, Frank attended the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, where he studied architecture under Karl König. In his teaching, König placed an emphasis on the quality of material, design, and planning rather than a strict adherence to style. Frank took the philosophy of König to heart and found inspiration in both the past and present to create designs with quality in mind. In 1925, Frank founded the firm Haus und Garten with fellow architects Oskar Wlach and Walter Sobotka. Unlike the Wiener Werstatte which lauded Gesamtkunstwerks, the three architects believed in creating livable spaces.

In 1933, with Hitler’s rise to power in Austria, Frank and his wife Anna move to Sweden. At first, Frank found it difficult to find work but he soon began working with Estrid Ericson at her interior design firm, Svenskt Tenn. It was with Svenskt Tenn that Frank was at his most prolific, designing over 1,000 furniture pieces and over 200 patterns for rugs, wallpaper, and textiles several of which are still in production today. In 1941, Frank and Anna moved yet again, this time to New York. He remained close with Estrid Ericson gifting her fifty pattern designs inspired by the natural life and city landscapes of the US on her fiftieth birthday.

Frank subscribed the idea that homes are flexible and ever-changing, and he believed that designers should put clients’ needs first when considering an interior. He coined the term “Accidentalism” in his manifesto published in Form magazine in 1958, in expressing the idea that an interior should be a fluid space that changes with the desires of its inhabitants. Frank died in 1967, leaving behind a legacy of bold patterns and masterfully crafted furniture. His work can be found in the permanent collections around the world.

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