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Botany

A work made of linen; screenprinted.

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  • A work made of linen; screenprinted.

Date:

1946/1950

Artist:

Designed by Josef Frank (Austrian, 1885–1967) for Morley-Fletcher Ltd (American, mid-20th century)

About this artwork

Josef Frank, through his work as an architect and designer, helped to popularize modern Scandinavian design throughout Europe and the United States in the middle of the twentieth century. Although born and trained in Austria, Frank’s role as a promulgator of the Scandinavian aesthetic comes from his longtime affiliation with the Swedish interiors firm Svenskt Tenn, established in Stockholm in 1924. In 1933, Frank, a Jew, left Vienna and his own design firm Haus und Garten for Stockholm to escape Nazi persecution. There, he befriended Estrid Ericson, the founder of Svenskt Tenn, and the two went on to have a long and successful professional relationship.

Botany, which Frank designed after WWII for the New York firm Morley Fletcher, demonstrates the widespread appeal of his work as well as its sensitive practicality. The dense florid style of the imaginative print is in keeping with earlier examples of his textiles, including his Primavera design, which he produced initially for Haus und Garten. Although Botany similarly remains reminiscent of historic textiles, particularly mille fleur (thousand flower) tapestries produced in Europe during the early modern period, twentieth-century design theories also informed Frank’s approach. Botany features ungrounded and sometimes invented floral forms as well as a large butterfly, both of which are vibrant in color and even somewhat surreal. Frank’s penchant for florals speaks to his larger design sensibility; as he argued that modern design should embrace the variety inherent in nature as well as humanity. A bit of an outlier, Frank did not adhere to dogmatic modernist theories of functionalism and the “complete interior,” and went so far as to directly contradict Le Corbusier’s assertion that a house was “a machine for living.” Although Frank initially worked in the same Viennese milieu as Josef Hoffmann and artists associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, he found himself at home in Sweden, where his humane design ideals were embraced.

Scandinavian design became increasingly popular in the United States during the postwar era. In a New York Times article from 1949 that detailed “New Ideas and Inventions” for the home, Mary Roche observed that “the Swedish botanical print” was just one of the Scandinavian design ideas “taking hold” in the United States. Indeed, in addition to working with Frank, Morley Fletcher also collaborated with the Danish designer Arne Jacobsen. Although Frank produced his last textile design in 1950, his work remains popular and Svenskt Tenn continues to manufacture and retail his “Swedish botanicals.”

Currently Off View

Textiles

Artists

Josef Frank (Designer) , Morley Fletcher Ltd. (Retailer)

Title

Botany

Places

United States (Object made for), Austria (Artist's nationality)

Date

Made 1946-1950

Medium

Linen; screenprinted

Inscriptions

Selvedge: [indicates printed in England for Morley-Fletcher, a New York retailer in the late 1940s to mid 1950s] Attached paper tag: [from Chandler & Co. Boston]

Dimensions

281.9 × 124.5 cm (111 × 49 in.)

Credit Line

Barbara Howard Estate Fund

Reference Number

2020.217

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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