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Josef Frank, Hawaii, 1943-45. © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Hawaii, 1943-45. © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
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The Beautiful Designs of Josef Frank Come to London

Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 2 February 2017
The first-ever UK exhibition of the acclaimed artist and designer opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum last week to rave reviews and a beguiled audience. So just what is it about Josef Frank that leaves us so in awe of his vibrant floral textile designs?

In 1933, the Austrian-born Josef Frank moved to Sweden to work with designer and entrepreneur Estrid Ericson on a number of furniture, textile prints, glassware and interior design ideas. Together the two established what is now referred to as Swedish Modern; a colourful visual language that was a much-needed relief to the reality of World War II.

Josef Frank, Dixieland, 1941-46. © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Dixieland, 1941-46. | © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn

In the lower galleries you’ll encounter Frank’s vivid fabric designs for Svenskt Tenn. Inspired by nature, his designs of bright floral compositions populated with birds and butterflies, are full of optimism. They almost reflect a changing world, where different species can coexist in harmony.

Josef Frank, Gröna Fåglar (Green Birds) 1943 © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Gröna Fåglar (Green Birds) 1943 | © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Tulpaner (Tulips), 1943-45. © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Tulpaner (Tulips), 1943-45. | © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn

‘The monochromatic surface appears uneasy, while patterns are calming, and the observer is unwillingly influenced by the slow, calm way it is produced,’ said Frank of the importance of decoration as his approach to Modernism went against the grain and challenged orthodox thinking.

Josef Frank, Manhattan, 1943-45 © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Manhattan, 1943-45 | © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Hawaii, 1943-45. © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
Josef Frank, Hawaii, 1943-45. | © Josef Frank, Courtesy of Svenskt Tenn

To fully illustrate the diversity of Frank’s designs that adorn everything from curtains, sofas, cushions, wallpaper and carpets the exhibition includes room sets with examples of his furniture. In addition to the abundance of glorious patterns there is a rare chance to see his relatively unknown watercolours. He painted over 400 in the later part of his life that captured his travels and landscapes in his uniquely delicate style.

The dining room in Anne's house, Millesgarden. Fitted with Josef Frank furniture by Estrid Ericson © Millesgarden.
The dining room in Anne’s house, Millesgarden. Fitted with Josef Frank furniture by Estrid Ericson | © Millesgarden.
Josef Frank, Untitled, 1933. © Josef Frank
Josef Frank, Untitled, 1933. | © Josef Frank

What’s most compelling about Josef Frank‘s oeuvre is that it’s about an individuals approach that translates seamlessly to the wider collective experience of making a home one’s own. He really understood that although furniture and the accoutrements of the house serve a function, they needn’t be bland. So whether you’re looking for inspiration or fancy some interior design enlightenment, this is the must-visit show of spring 2017.

Josef Frank: Patterns-Furniture-Painting is at the Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3XF from 28 January to 7 May 2017.

£9.90 adults, £7.70 concessions, £6 students, free Children under 12. 50% off full price ticket for Art Fund members.