Paul T. Frankl (1886-1958)
U.S. industrial designer born in Vienna, Austria, who was a member of the Weiner Sezession (Vienna Succession) early in the 20th century. He studied architecture at the Berlin Polytechnic, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1914, settling in New York. By 1922 he had established Frankl Galleries on 48th Street, and by 1924 had a showroom, Skyscraper Furniture, on Madison Avenue, selling furniture of his own design, generally combination desks and bookcases, but also lamps. His designs, starting in 1925, resembled the New York skyscrapers, in that they were tall and narrow to fit small New York apartments. They became a sensation and resulted in instant fame. He wrote several books, including New Dimensions: TheDecorative Arts of Today in Words and Pictures (1928), Form and Reform: Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors (1930), Machine-Made Leisure (1932), and Space for Living (1938).
He was among the members of American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC), formed in 1927 to oppose copying of designs, and to exhibit their work in exhibitions and publications. In 1934 he relocated to California, becoming an interior decorator in his gallery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills in a style that would be called, ‘California Modern’ designing for movie starts such as Fred Astaire, Katherine Hepburn and Alfred Hitchcock.
He later applied his talents to posters, greeting cards, and theatrical sets, and selling imported objects from Europe. But his fortunes shifted from prosperity to poverty, and he suffered from depression and emotional insecurity late in life.
Excerpted from “Designers of the Machine Age” by Carroll Gantz, to be published 2014 by McFarland & Company, Inc.