About The Artist
Viennese-born American industrial designer Paul T. Frankl made an enormous impact on both the East and West Coasts with his innovative, international style, made available in his furniture boutiques and galleries in Los Angeles and New York. Arriving in New York City from Vienna in 1914, he established the eponymous Frankl Galleries in 1922, selling modern design and furniture. Two years later, he opened Skyscraper Furniture on Madison Avenue, named after his signature furniture designs that were composed of varying angularities and propelling heights. The forms were inspired by an old bookcase in his Woodstock vacation home and they happened to also resemble the New York skyline as well as referring to his background as a trained architect. These pieces were an immediate hit with Manhattan customers, fitting neatly and compactly in notoriously small New York City apartments.
Another important influence on Frankl’s work was his interest in Asia, sparked during a visit to Japan in 1914. He frequently staged his modernist furniture with Japanese screens and ceramics, admiring the simplicity of Asian stylistic philosophy and its “art of elimination,” and he made these objects available to his customers by shipping over items from Japan to sell at Frankl Galleries.
In 1934, Frankl moved to Los Angeles and set up shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, contributing to the birth of the “California Modern” style alongside designers including Milo Baughman and Greta Grossman. His casual rattan indoor-outdoor furniture with “square-pretzel” frames, introduced in 1936 for a client in Palm Beach, Florida became immediately popular. Frankl’s mix of organic forms, Asian-inspired shapes, and Art Deco details helped him gain the following of the rich and famous—he counted Alfred Hitchcock, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and Katherine Hepburn among his clientele.
Frankl lived the rest of his life in Los Angeles. His furniture pieces are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He authored several books in his lifetime, including New Dimensions: The Decorative Arts of Today in Words and Pictures (1928), Form and Reform: Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors (1930), Machine-Made Leisure (1932), and his autobiography, which was authored during his lifetime but published in 2013.
Gordon, John Stuart. “Christopher Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design.” Studies in the Decorative Arts. Vol. 15, No. 2 (Spring–Summer 2008). pp. 127-129.
Kaplan, Wendy. California Design, 1930-1965 Living In a Modern Way. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011. p 75-78.