Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design


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Christopher Long

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A comprehensive view of the life, work, and ideas of one of the creative giants of modern American design

Arriving in the United States in 1914, Viennese-born Paul T. Frankl (1886–1958) brought with him an outsider’s fresh perspective and an enthusiasm for forging a uniquely American design aesthetic. In the years between the two world wars he, more than any other designer, helped shape the distinctive look of American modernism. This authoritative book draws on an extensive collection of unpublished documents and family papers and photographs to provide the first full account of Frankl’s life and ideas. The book also explores the history of modern American design and the extent of Frankl’s influence on its trajectory. In the early 1920s, Frankl opened a New York City shop that became an epicenter of American modernism. Over the next decades, his work encompassed everything from individual pieces of furniture and decorative accessories to entire interiors, and his style continuously evolved, from early “Skyscraper” furniture to relaxed and casual designs favored by the Hollywood elite in the 1930s to manufactured pieces for the mass market in the 1950s. The book charts the impact of Frankl’s ideas on merchants and consumers, on his fellow designers, and on the changing look of American homes and workplaces. With close to 170 illustrations, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design is an essential reference on 20th-century design.

Christopher Long is associate professor, architectural history and theory, University of Texas at Austin. He publishes widely on a diverse range of subjects and was a contributing author to Josef Frank: Architect and Designer (Yale).

“Frankl is a critical figure who, through his designs, books, lectures, and organizational ability during the later 1920s and early 1930s, led the way with a new modernism. Long’s mixture of biography and history puts Frankl in context. Particularly important is the author’s detailing of Frankl’s Southern California years . . . work that is very important and really untreated. . . . This is new territory. ”—Richard Guy Wilson, University of Virginia School of Architecture

"[A] very readable and comprehensive book. . . . Partly design history, it is also a cultural and intellectual history . . . and a well-researched biography of a leading member of the modern movement. . . . Like many who have dedicated their life to a particular cause, Frankl made the advancement of the modern movement his raison d'être. He contributed much to modernism, but until Long's study, he has remained a somewhat enigmatic figure in it."—Antiques Magazine

"This well-written and well-illustrated book brings to life an era when modernism was new, and shows how it became American."—CA Modern

"The book serves well as an addition to any sustained study of American modern design as well as an introductory account of the design profession. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Profusely illustrated with a sizable number of period photographs. . . . There is value in critically assessing a designer's career in its entirety. Frankl was never monolithic in thought or production, and charting his development not only premits a greater understanding of a unique designer's character, but also offers a richer view of design as a whole."—John Stuart Gordon, Studies in the Decorative Arts
ISBN: 9780300121025
Publication Date: May 10, 2007
240 pages, 9 x 11
120 b/w + 42 color illus.

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