Edward Frank Unsung Champion of Midcentury Furniture Design

Design and Desire in the Twentieth Century usually focuses on legendary designers of the past century, but today we share a fascinating interview with Ron Frank discussing his uncle, Edward, who ran the family furniture store in Los Angeles, and his decision to sell modern Scandinavian furniture

According to Edward Frank’s 2005 obituary in the Los Angeles Times:

Frank’s passion for the field and his sophisticated tastes made Frank Bros. a magnet for architects, interior decorators and magazine editors. In the 1950s he was invited by John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture magazine, to furnish model houses designed for the Case Study Program that Entenza directed, to promote Modernist architecture.

The video posted by the National Building Museum includes outstanding period photographs.

An American Look: Fashion, Decorative Arts and Gustav Stickley

An American Look
(Right) Tall-back inlaid oak armchair designed by Harvey Ellis for Gustav Stickley, c. 1903, (Left) Clifton Pottery Crystal Patina vase #148, 1906; Clifton Pottery Crystal Patina vase #166, 1905; Grueby Pottery low bowl with matte green glaze; contemporary oak tabouret by Mitchell Andrus. Photo credit: Steve Sartori.
Source: http://www.everson.org/_img/_exhibits/detail/anamericanlook_02.jpg

The exhibition, “An American Look: Fashion, Decorative Arts and Gustav Stickley,” running now through September 22, 2013 at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, examines the way in which American design increased its influence upon women’s fashions at the turn of the twentieth century.  Up until that time women’s fashion had been largely dominated by French designers. 

The swiftly changing lifestyles of upper class American women, along with role of women in society in general, led to clothing that allowed more freedom of physical movement. Gone were the corseted hour-glass shapes, bustles and trains glorified by Charles Dana Gibson’s Gibson Girl of the earlier decade; a new elegant silhouette based on the two-thirds proportion exemplified high style for the new woman of the 1910s. This silhouette was evident in the exhibition’s evening gowns with empire waists and the shirtwaist blouse with walking skirt ensembles. The two-thirds proportion could also be seen in both a large Grueby vase and a Gustav Stickley hall clock featured in the show. 

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Stickley’s 1902 Hall Settle Returns to Central New York

Stickley Hall Settle

Gustav Stickley, Hall Settle, c. 1902.  Photo credit: Barbara Weiskittel 
Gift of David Rago and Suzanne Perrault, Collection of The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms.

The 1902 Gustav Stickley hall settle that graces the south end of the dining room in Stickley’s former residence at Craftsman Farms in Parsippany, New Jersey is the topic of a recent post on the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms blog.

The settle, which was originally designed as part of the interior of Stickley’s home in Syracuse, New York, will be headed back to that city as part of an exhibition “An American Look: Fashion, Decorative Arts and Gustav Stickley,” at the Everson Museum of Art. The show runs now through September 22, 2013.

Read the entire post.

The Eames’ Home of Steel and Glass, 1950

Thank you to Aqua-Velvet for posting these gorgeous images taken by LIFE magazine photographer Peter Stackpole for a short print feature entitled, "A Designer’s Home of His Own: Charles Eames builds a home of steel and glass.” The photos were originally published on September 11, 1950. 

View the rest of the images and the Aqua-Velvet post.

View more images of Charles and Ray Eames on Google Archives.

Eames House
Peter Stackpole. Photograph of interior of the home of Charles and Ray Eames, (1950).
Source: http://aqua-velvet.com/blog/images/2012/04_apr/19_eames11.jpg

Peter Stackpole, Photograph of Ray Eames (1950).
Source: http://aqua-velvet.com/blog/images/2012/04_apr/19_eames7.jpg.

Harry Bertoia: Sound + Vision

A tiny gallery off of the first floor main gallery of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York houses a unique exhibition of mid-Twentieth century sculpture, metalwork, tonal recordings and furniture design. At first glance the viewer might think that the show was a collection of art by of a group of extremely talented individuals, but he or she would be mistaken. The exhibition is work of one artist — Harry Bertoia. It is also somewhat remarkable that such a range of work had been created by one artist, an artist who for much of his career was a consummate team player.

Harry Bertoia
Harry Bertoia in his studio, circa 1960, photographer unknown.
Source: http://www.hbrp.net/HBRP/pics/bertoiainstudioSM.jpg

Harry Bertoia’s Early Life

Arieto “Harry” Bertoia was born in 1915 “in the small village of San Lorenzo, Friuli, Italy, about 50 miles north of Venice”1. He came to the United States with his father in 1930 to visit his older brother who was living in Detroit, Michigan. Young Harry stayed on to attend technical high school and attended the Art School of Detroit Society of the Arts on an academic scholarship.2

Bertoia’s Time at Cranbrook Academy

In 1937 Bertoia began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art,2 and by 1939 was invited by Cranbrook’s director, architect Eliel Saarinen, to become the school’s “instructor of metal work”1. At Cranbook Bertoia met influential artists and designers that he would soon collaborate with: Saarinen’s son, architect and designer Eero, as well as legendary furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames2.

Working with Charles and Ray Eames

In 1940 Bertoia assisted Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen in preparing their entries for the Museum of Modern Art design competition. While both Eames and Saarinen won awards in the competition, Bertoia was never credited for his work. Later Bertoia traveled to California to work with the Eameses on the metal structure for their iconic Eames Chair2. Bertoia’s “innovative chair solutions made [mass] production possible”1. Again his contributions went unrecognized2.

Harry Bertoia, Diamond Lounge Chair (1952).

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Jean Prouvé Mid-Century Furnishings

Recently Mid-centuria ran a post on a fabulous contemporary home that features furnishings created by influential French designer, Jean Prouvé. Originally trained as a blacksmith, Prouvé established his design studio in 1931 and his own furniture factory in 1936. An industry pioneer, he introduced steel, aluminum and arc welding to furniture design.1

For more on Prouvé, visit the Jean Prouvé Museum and Design Museum.


Design Museum, (2007). Jean Prouvé French engineer and designer (1901-1984). http://designmuseum.org/design/jean-prouve

Cite Studio chair

Jean Prouvé, Cité Lounge Chair, circa 1930.
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-PQ7sCSWs02o/T8zkQPSudjI/AAAAAAAAFMg/VBnSriDzT4w/s1600/Vitra_Cite_Studio+Shot.jpg


Finding Charles Pollack

Charles Pollack, one of the leading furniture designers of the 1950s and 1960s, worked alongside such design greats as George Nelson and was a member of the design staff of both Herman Miller and Knoll. Pollock developed the 1958 Swag Leg collection for George Nelson and created the 1963 Pollock Executive for Knoll. Following several years of success, however, Pollack disappeared entirely from the furniture design world. Many assumed that Pollack was dead — that is until Jerry Heller, president of Bernhardt Design, went on a mission to find the designer.

Read this fascinating story on Co.Design.

Arne Vodder (1926-2009)

Thank you to Mid-Centuria for bringing to our attention the work of Danish designer and architect Arne Vodder (1926-2009). Vodder studied with furniture designer Finn Juhl; the two were good friends and later became business partners. Vodder designed furniture for a number of Danish companies but is best known for the work he did for Sibast Furniture in the 1950-1960’s.  The teak and rosewood sideboards he designed during this period are iconic pieces of mid-century modern furniture.1

Visit Mid-centuria to view more of Vodder’s work.

Arne Vodder cabinet

Arne Vodder, Credenza (circa late 1950s).
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2Ev7Zn9UqvU/T05I2Kw_MjI/AAAAAAAAE_M/-x7go1w3jIE/s640/Arne-vodder-credenza-sideboard-tambour-BR.jpg


1. Deconet, (2011). Arne Vodder. http://www.deconet.com/decopedia/designer/1239/Arne_Vodder#

California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way

"California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way" is on exhibit now through June 3, 2012 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This exhibit features more than 300 items including furniture, ceramics, metalwork, fashion and textiles, as well as industrial and graphic design. It is the first major show to examine the influence of California designers on mid-Twentieth century product design.

Christopher Hawthorne in his review of  “California Design” writes:

"California modernism was a distinct style from its earliest years. It traded the social conscience of the Bauhaus for an approach to design that was not only ‘looser, warmer’ and often ‘ad hoc,’ as Kaplan puts it in the catalog, and more expressive of local character, but also entirely comfortable with the notion of salesmanship and the realities of commerce. Indeed, of the exhibition’s four thematic sections, the one on ‘Selling California Modern’ arguably makes up the heart of the show. The other sections are ‘Shaping,’ on the early years of California modernism; ‘Making,’ on materials and fabrication; and ‘Living,’ on housing, furnishings and the indoor-outdoor postwar aesthetic made possible by a benign climate.” Read the entire review.

More information on “California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way” on the LACMA site.

Read our past post on photographer Julius Schulman and California architecture.

Julius Shulman (1910–2009), photographer, Pierre Koenig, architect, Stahl House (Case Study House #22), Los Angeles, 1960 © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library, Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10).
Source: http://www.lacma.org/sites/default/files/imagecache/Exhibition_Main/image/Shulman.jpg

The American Look

“The American Look: Fashions and Furnishings of the Arts and Crafts Era” features selections from the Sue Genet Costume Collection at Syracuse University and from Dalton’s American Decorative Arts. The show opens at the Warehouse Gallery in Syracuse, NY on October 15, 2011 and runs through November 11, 2011.

The American Look