The exhibiton of Josef Frank’s iconic, colourful and exuberant textiles at the Fashion & Textile Museum (Bermondsey, London) is an absolute must-see for colour and pattern lovers. Not to mention anyone interested in the history of Scandinavian design. You can imagine that I hot-footed it down there as soon as I could.
The main space has been hung with long panels of interiors textiles from the archives of Swedish interior design company Svenskt Tenn, with whom Austrian-born Frank enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration after moving to Sweden in 1933.
A trained architect, Josef Frank had also founded a successful interior design studio in his native Vienna, which included textile designs. These were seen by the founder of Svenskt Tenn, Estrid Ericson, in whom Frank found a kindred spirit.
Over the 30 years that they worked together, their love for distinctive and functional design produced textiles and furniture that are now considered to be Swedish Modernist classics.
A real highlight of this exhibtion for me was to see Josef Frank’s original drawings for these textile patterns. Many of the designs had their artwork hung alongside them, and it was fascinating to see the workings of this master of colour and pattern.
Colour palettes and the pattern repeat appear alongside the exquisitely drawn and coloured designs.
Josef Frank’s textiles were strongly influenced by the natural world – hence the riot of often fantastical organic shapes: landscapes, flowers, plants, fruits, sea creatures, birds and insects.
These motifs suggest beauty, abundance and the simple joys of life such as enjoying the bounty of nature and the pleasure of eating and drinking.
Another thing to love about this exhibition – there was a selection of sofas, chairs and day beds covered in these gorgous fabrics.
As a departure from the usual “Keep Off” signs, you were invited instead to “Take a Seat”. It was blissful to sink into the cushions, look around and soak up the displays from the comfort of some exceptionally stylish seating. Just take a look at this day bed below.
‘Tulipaner’ (Tulips is one of Josef Frank’s most popular fabrics, and was designed during the years he lived in New York (1941-1946). The information panel beside this fabric contained a very surprising statistic: “people in Sweden buy over a milion tulips a day between January and Easter”. Now there’s a fun tulip fact.
By complete coincidence, Ron and I took a trip to Stockholm last weekend. Obviously, the Svenskt Tenn showroom was very high on my list of things to do. I’ve been in love with their fabrics ever since I discovered their (then) concession in Liberty London several years ago. And visiting the actual, real life shop certainly lived up to expectations. Above are some of their fabrics and wallpapers.
And I couldn’t resist snapping this beautiful flower arrangement. Aren’t they gorgeous? Especially the tulips, as you’d expect.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this very brief tour of the Josef Frank exhibition. There’s lots more to see, including many of his watercolour paintings, and it’s on until 7 May 2017. You can find more information at the Fashion and Textile Museum website.