Image: Josef Frank, Miracle, late 1920s, inspired by William Morris.
In Selvedge Issue 74 Wild Lesley Jackson wrote about the work of designer Josef Frank. We feature an extract from the article - Perennial Prints - here. To read the full version you can purchase a digital version of the magazine, and any from our archive, in the back issues section. The Wild issue was published during winter and also includes an exploration of fibres native to extreme locations where wild weather is the norm.
If you’re visiting Stockholm for the first time and ask the locals where to go, chances are they’ll send you to Svenskt Tenn, one of the must-see shops in the capital. For the Swedes, this legendary furnishings store is a source of national pride but, for the uninitiated, given Scandinavia’s reputation for cool understatement, Svenskt Tenn may come as something of a shock. No minimalist abstracts here. Bold, high-voltage, coloursaturated florals are the order of the day, all created by one man, Josef Frank, up to eighty years ago.
Image: Josef Frank, Italian dinner.
Although Josef Frank is synonymous with Swedish design, he is also something of an anomaly. An Austrian émigré, he was born in 1885 and practised as an architect in Vienna until the age of forty-eight. It wasn’t until 1933 that he moved to Sweden, fearing for his safety because of mounting anti-Semitism in neighbouring Germany following Hitler’s rise to power.
Alongside his architectural work, Frank had also made a name for himself in Vienna as a furniture and textile designer, establishing a successful company Haus und Garten as an outlet for his talents in 1925. In his furnishing fabrics for Haus und Garten, Frank’s passion for botany resulted in designs that were strongly organic, both in structure and imagery. The long snaking stems that weave through his compositions were a device co-opted from William Morris, a designer he greatly admired. Another potent source of inspiration were the mille fleurs effects in French medieval tapestries, prompting a series of patterns with carpets of leaves and flowers evoking Alpine meadows.
Image: Josef Frank, Butterfly, 1943-45 ©Svenskt Ten.
From an artistic and commercial point of view, Frank’s success in Sweden was due to the tireless support of his patron Estrid Ericson, who championed and promoted his work through her company Svenskt Tenn. The partnership flourished and his friendship with Ericson remained as close as ever until his death in 1967, although he stopped designing textiles in 1950.
Extract article from Selvedge Issue 74 Wild.