Currently showing at the quirky and colourful Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, South London is an engaging exhibition of the textiles and watercolours of the Austrian architect and designer Josef Frank (1885-1967).
Josef Frank, who married a Swede and became a Swedish citizen in 1939, is something of an icon in Sweden. His bold and colourful textile patterns produced for the Swedish design firm Svenskt Tenn have become modern design classics and can be spotted in numerous homes across Sweden and beyond.
The textiles are beautifully displayed at the Fashion and Textile Museum- hanging on their own rather than as part of an armchair or curtain, as one usually sees them, giving the opportunity to truly see the designs of the prints themselves. In marked contrast to the unstable and fearful times of the interwar period and the Second World War that Frank was experiencing, the prints are full of the joy of nature: colourful birds, butterflies and flowers are abundant, a paradise world is created. A Jew, living in exile in Sweden, New York and then Sweden again, Frank chose to escape to nature, colour and visual beauty.
At the beginning of the exhibition, a drawing room is recreated, filled with Svenskt Tenn furniture, vases and fabrics including Frank cushions, curtain and carpet. The space is small and full of contrasting colour and pattern yet it does not appear overwhelming; Scandinavian design at its best.
Upstairs is an exhibition of Frank’s watercolours, largely painted in the 1950s in the South of France. They are perfectly pleasing but unlike his textile designs, are nothing remarkable. Turn a corner and there is a William Morris armchair, whose work inspired and influenced Frank. Admirer of Morris as I am, the armchair appeared rather dowdy and dated after the wonderful vibrancy of the Svenskt Tenn fabrics.
Josef Frank, Patterns-Furniture-Painting is at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 7th May 2017.