Paul Theodore Frankl (1886-1958)

Austrian furniture designer, architect, painter and writer, Paul Theodore Frankl was one of the most important exponents of the American Art déco style. Together with his friend Joseph Urban, he laid the foundations of the American tradition of modern decoration.

Paul T. Frankl portrait in black and white.
Paul T. Frankl portrait

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About His Life

Paul Theodore Frankl was born inViennain1886, where he studied architecture before traveling to Berlin and Copenhagen. Emigrating to the US in April1914, Frankl began to work as an architect and later switched todesigningandpainting fine artandfurniture. In the years between the two world wars, he opened the Frankl Galleries on 48th Street in New York City, where he sold a variety of his designs for furniture, as well as modern textiles and wallpapers imported from Europe, becoming anepicenter of American modernism.

An example of Desk designed by Paul Frankl.
Desk – Paul Frankl

Image source: Evanson

While the first part of his career took place in New York, where he produced luxurious designs compatible with the Art Deco works of his French contemporaries, he lived inCaliforniafor the majority of his life. He moved toLos Angelesand opened a gallery in Beverly Hills, where celebrities such asCary GrantandAlfred Hitchcockbecame clients. In 1928, he was the principal founder of the American Designers’ Gallery and in 1930 he contributed to the foundation of the Amarican Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC). He died in1958inLos Angeles, USA.

What Were His Major Works?

Around 1925, Paul Theodore Frankl began to design geometric furniture which he namedSkyscraper furniture. He gave desks, chests of drawers, and cupboards geometric forms but dissected them seemingly into rectangles, which he then piled on top of each other. These Art Decò designs, inspired by the many-story forms of 1920s architecture, as well as being sold in his gallery in New York, were also exhibited in the “Art in Trade” exhibition held at the Macy’s department store in 1927.
Frankl还给了讲座“德的摩天大楼coration” and publicized his Moderne style applied to interior design through illustrated books.

'Skyscraper' Step Table, 1920s, by Paul Frankl.
‘Skyscraper’ Step Table, 1920s, by Paul Frankl

Image source: T. Frankl

In the following decades, his work included everything from individual pieces of furniture and decorative accessories to interiors, and his style hasevolved continuously, from the first “Skyscraper” furniture to the relaxed and casual designs preferred by theHollywood elitein 30s to pieces manufactured for themass marketin the 50s.

Skyscraper chair - Paul Frankl.
Skyscraper Chair – Paul Frankl

Image source: Evanson

How Can We Identify Frankl’s Style?

When he settled in NYC, he brought with him anoutsider’s fresh perspectiveand an enthusiasm for forging auniquely American design aesthetic. Around 1925, Paul Theodore Frankl’s designs began to assimilate theAsian influences; his sumptuous furniture made ofpremium materialsand hardwoods had lacquered surfaces.

Modernique Table Clock, 1928-1932, by Paul Theodore Frankl.
Modernique Table Clock, 1928-1932

Image source:,_late_1920s.jpg

Frankl was perhapsthemost important exponent of the Art Deco in America; his most modern works were inspired more by the skyscrapers of New York in the twenties than by the contemporary currents of European design. He believed that design should beinspired by culturefrom the local environment; for this reason he decided to give the American decorative arts anappropriateandrecognizable identity.

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