Foundation:The Forgotten men

By Jo Phillips

Josef Frank is the forgotten man of the modernist design, have you even heard of him?  Well worth acquainting yourself with him and his work as he was dubbed the ‘anti design designer’ . Sadly his reputation was out shone by his contemporaries who may well have had a more traditional approach.

The Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum taking place from the months of January until May,is a wonderful opportunity to get to know the man who redefined Swedish Modernism.

Born in 1885, in Austria to Jewish parents. He moved from Austria to Sweden with his wife in the 1930’s to escape Nazi persecution. Being an immigrant finding work proved difficult, until he caught a break landing a job at the Swedish interior design studio Svenskt Tenn (founded by Estrid Ericson).

Svenskt_Tenn_Textil_Dixieland_1_2©Svenskt Tenn

For most of his life, Frank was an architect; he had a successful practice where he designed houses and their interiors. Frank is best known for the hundreds of colourful textile, wallpaper and fabrics designs he designed whilst at Svenskt Tenn. His highly anticipated fabric designs will showcase at the exhibition, along with some of his furniture and textile designs that he created whilst working for Estrid Ericson. The Swedish studio have confirmed that they will also be releasing a colouring book called Swedish Modern. The book was created with the inspiration from the work and creativity of Frank, using his ideas of combining high and low, old and new and different colours to create unique, individual living spaces.

4. Josef Frank, Manhatten, 1943-45©Svenskt Tenn

He later moved to New York with his wife for the duration of the war and it is here that some of his most prominent and best works emerged during his time such as the hand-drawn map of Manhattan. In 1946, Frank returned to Sweden and continued his collaboration with Svenskt Tenn until his death in 1967. Frank created over 160 prints for the company, many of his beautiful textiles have been used by interiors decorators for decades, places such as Ikea get their inspiration of modernism and colour from the work of Josef Frank. Trained with the rigid confinements of mid-century classical architecture, Josef Frank embraced a freer and less confined design philosophy. He believed that each house created should mirror their owners and embody their personalities; his pieces, were a mixture of multiple patterns and a combination of antiques and new furniture. The key theme to Frank’s work is drama, the more dramatic the contrast the more appealing the end results were.


Just as Frank is unknown to most, so is Gio Ponti. Born Giovanni Ponti, but widely known as Gio Ponti, was an Italian architect, industrial designer and furniture designer. With a career that spanned more than 50 years, he tried his hand at almost everything from stage sets to cathedrals, to ceramics and furniture. He is known for completing the Pirelli Tower, at 127 metres, it was the tallest building in Europe in the 20th century.


Ponti was born in 1891, the only child of Italian parents, he studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. His studies were interrupted as he was drafted into the army, after he returned from the war he continued his studies. By 1923, he became the art director for the ceramics manufacture Richard Ginori until the 1930’s were he fused the concepts of the old and new with classical themes.

In 1921, Ponti married Giulia Vimercati, a member of one of Milan’s most important families. He was a man who loved original ideas and experimented with new materials. In 1928 , he had set up an architectural and design magazine called Domus, where he expressed his world views and showcased the best of Italian design.

Gio Ponti died in 1979, in Milan, his pieces still remain in high demand today by those interested in the best of the 20th century design world.

If you want to visit the Josef Frank exhibition, you can buy tickets here.

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