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Josef Frank - Patterns, Furniture and Painting

31st January 2017

Bold, beautiful and blossoming - the stunning work of Josef Frank (1885-1967) is now being displayed at the Fashion and Textile Museum, in the first-ever UK exhibition dedicated to the internationally renowned designer and artist. Focussing on Frank's vibrant textile designs, groundbreaking interior concepts and unseen artworks, the exhibit places his work in an art historical context and displays a previously unknown side of the designer's creativity. We were fortunate enough to be invited to the preview of  "Patterns-Furniture-Painting,"and we were overwhelmed by the captivating creations - this show is pure delight for all lovers of patterns...

The main entrance to the Josef Frank exhibition from outside of the Fashion and Textiles Museum.

Left: The museum is packed full of interesting information about Frank, from start to finish. Right: An interior display of Frank's designs - on fabrics, furniture and interior accessories.

Josef Frank was born in Austria and worked as an architect and committed socialist. Despite owning a successful architecture practice, he moved to Sweden in 1933 due to threat of Nazi persecution. The architect rose to become one of Sweden's most influential and important cultural figures, and later adopted Swedish citizenship. What's more, it was in Sweden where Frank found expression for his colourful brand of modernism, working alongside Swedish designer and entrepreneur Estrid Ericson on 2000 furniture sketches, 160 textile prints, glassware, metalwork and interior design ideas. Together, the two creatives helped to shape and define what we now regard as Swedish Modern.

A collection of photographs, documents and letters depicting Frank's inspirational life.

"Frank creates worlds that serve as stark contrasts to the time period within which they were created - World War II"

Josef Frank's "Mille Fleurs" from 1940, depicting thousands of flowers originating from French tapestries.

Left: "Window" from 1943-45, transferred onto a large seat and fabric. The print depicts several common house plants. Right: "Carpet Number 7" by Frank was inspired from the Medusa heads found in ancient Roman homes.

In his array of textile patterns, Frank creates worlds that serve as stark contrasts to the time period within which they were created - World War II. Using nature as his prime source of inspiration, Frank's designs are dominated by beautifully coloured birds, butterflies, plants and floral shapes; the immediate appeal and uplifting colours never seem to go out of fashion. The prints are filled with optimistic energy, and, similarly to our EJS designs, the viewer is invited to enter an abstract world of species, nature and landscapes. As well as seeing these large patterns, we loved seeing the original prints from which these came from, which are displayed throughout the exhibition.

Josef Frank's "Teheran" from 1943-45. Each individual flower and leaf is a piece of art in its own right.

Away from fabrics and into furniture, Frank's material values are the same. Unique combinations of functionalism with decoration were key in the interior concepts designed by Josef Frank. When other designers advocated a simple monochrome functionalism, Frank included the colours and forms of nature, arguing that decoration added richness. He was known to state:

"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."

Frank's print "Dixieland" from 1943-45 transferred onto a seating arrangement. The fabric reflects themes closely linked to the Surrealist movement.

Left: A selection of Frank's prints have been transferred onto fabric, hung large-scale in the exhibition. Right: We loved seeing Frank's original artworks, which were later translated into continuous prints.

Not only did Frank design a vast number of fabrics and furniture, he was also a lesser-known watercolorist. More than 400 watercolours paintings created in the later part of his life are on display in the exhibit, depicting either his travels, landscapes, cityscapes and still lives. Collectively, they are notable for their distinctive style - restrained and delicate

Over 400 unseen watercolour prints were displayed at the exhibit, ranging from cityscapes to still life.

Josef Frank's positive, optimistic outlook on his work, and his life, comes through stunningly throughout this exhibition. The designs are classics: his use of colour, sense of scale and surreal organic forms have remained in fashion for over 70 years. We urge you all to visit this truly inspiring exhibit for an injection of inspiration and escapism

Josef Frank: Patterns - Furniture - Painting

28 January - 7 May 2017, £9.90 per adult

Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street

London, SE1 3XF 

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