Friday, 27 January 2017

Josef Frank: Patterns - Furniture - Paintings

Josef Frank: Patterns - Furniture - Paintings has just opened at the Fashion & Textile Museum (FTM) in London. Attending the opening curator talk was the perfect introduction to this lovely exhibition about Josef Frank as architect, designer and artist. 

Tulpaner 1943-45
Josef Frank at the FTM
Josef Frank was born in Vienna in 1885. In 1925 he founded the design and furnishing company Haus & Garten. In 1933, due to growing anti-semitism, he went to live in Stockholm with his Swedish wife Anna and he gained Swedish citizenship in 1939. In 1932, he was approached by Estrid Ericson to design for Svenskt Tenn (Swedish Pewter). This was the start of a creative partnership that lasted almost 30 years. 

Our introduction to the exhibition began with an excellent talk by Onita Wass, the director of Millesgarden Museum, located just outside Stockholm. The museum collaborated with Josef Frank's family to create an exhibition bringing together Josef Frank's recently discovered watercolour paintings with his distinctive textile designs. The exhibition was held between March and October 2016. Having predicted around 43,000 visitors, the actual numbers were 85,000, clearly showing the popularity of Josef Frank!

Beth Ojari, the FTM exhibition designer told us that the FTM wanted to keep the same feel of the exhibition as had been achieved by Millesgarden. However, to introduce Josef Frank to a British audience who may be less familiar with his work, they decided to increase the prominence of some of the exhibition features. In particular, a distinctive room set by Svenskt Ten is one of the first displays as you enter the exhibition.

Svenskt Tenn Room Set
Josef Frank Exhibition at the FTM 
Svenskt Tenn Room Set
Josef Frank Exhibition at the FTM
Another aspect featured at the FTM is the influence of William Morris. Through a previous collaboration with Walker Greenback PLC, the parent company of Sanderson and Morris & Co, the FTM are able to display two distinctive William Morris designs, Seaweed and Fruit. Josef Frank's Miracle design was inspired by Morris's Seaweed and it is fascinating to see the designs in the same exhibition. 

Josef Frank's Mirakel design from the 1920s has been influenced by 
William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. 

The watercolour paintings displayed upstairs were recently discovered by Josef Frank's family and they now number around 400! In some of the paintings you can see a resemblance to the textile patterns. Many of them feature buildings. Josef Frank's architectural background shows in his attention to the detail of the buildings. There is a beautiful accompanying book, written by Ulrica von Schwerin Sievert, that is illustrated with the paintings and tells Josef Frank's Story through five women in his life.

Josef Frank Watercolours

Josef Frank Watercolours

My favourite aspect of this exhibition as learning about how Josef Frank took inspiration from many diverse sources and then created new and original work. Although you can see the influences, Josef Frank has added so many new dimensions that his work also becomes an inspirational source for other designers. The FTM has included some of the inspirational references in the descriptions and I really enjoyed reading these! Here are a few of my favourites. There are many more to see in the exhibition. 

Anakreon 1938 was designed in Stockholm for Svenskt Tenn. The bird motif was inspired by a 3500 year old fresco in the palace of Knossos on Crete. 

Anakreon by Josef Frank

For Vegetable Tree 1943-45, Josef Frank's inspiration was from an Indian Palampore featuring the tree of life theme. 

Vegetable Tree by Joseph Frank

In Rox & Fix for Svenskt Tenn, Joseph Frank used little hills from his landscape drawings in the style, form and colour of Chinese ink paintings. 

Rox and Fix by Josef Frank

The exhibition has just opened and will be on until 7th May 2017. This bright and colourful "feel good" exhibition is so inspiring! There are lots of talks, workshops and events scheduled and every Wednesday and Friday at 1pm there is a curator tour of the exhibition (free with exhibition ticket).

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