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Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Paul Frankl

February 23, 2015

Viennese-born Paul Frankl (b. 1886) first trained and practiced in Vienna, Berlin, and New York, but moved to Los Angeles in 1934. He fell in love with the western city’s climate, scenery, and lifestyle– pronouncing it “heaven.” The relocation proved to be highly influential, and Frankl remained in LA for the rest of his life. His furniture designs became lighter, simpler, and sometimes inflected by Asian aesthetics. Frankl’s work was attractive to Hollywood- notable celebrities (Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Fred Astaire) were clients. Frankl biographer Christopher Long also argues that his furniture prompted a trend to brighter and airier set designs in films.

Lot 252, Paul Frankl, Desk, Designed, c. 1951

Lot 252, Paul Frankl, Desk, Designed, c. 1951
March 1, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Frankl embraced natural materials with tactile qualities. His designs for the Johnson Furniture Company (c. 1951) feature texture-rich upholstery like hide and nubby wool, cork with a beeswax finish, “combed” wood panels with raised striations, and rattan chair and sofa frames. These elegant designs are, perhaps, a testament not only to Frankl’s talents, but also to the transformative power of Southern California.

Lot 249, Paul Frankl, Two-tiered end tables (3), Designed c. 1951

Lot 249, Paul Frankl, Two-tiered end tables (3), Designed c. 1951
March 1, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

From Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern Design & Fine Art:

 Everything you need to know about the differences between Los Angeles and New York can be found in the works by Paul Frankl. His first great success–the “Skyscraper Furniture” line, created when he was in New York– epitomizes the city. The pieces are tall cabinets with staggered shelves meant to mimic the jagged setbacks of Manhattan office towers.

 When Frankl moved west to Los Angeles in 1934, again, the new surroundings almost immediately influenced his creations. Like many of the Austrian émigrés before him, he discovered that with an expanse of land comes an opportunity to reinforce the horizontal plane. The designer’s eye was no longer forced upward by the paucity of grounded square footage. Instead, the wide open spaces of the West allowed for more luxurious and gracious proportions, not only in architecture, but also in the designs of the furniture that filled its interiors.

 

Lot 247, Paul Frankl, Coffee table, Designed c. 1951

Lot 247, Paul Frankl, Coffee table, Designed c. 1951
March 1, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auctions

 Nowhere is the contrast between Frankl’s early works and his later designs more evident than in the coffee table (lot 247), above. The long, low, broad expanse of the top is raised on an almost minimalistic base that harkens the Orient. A Zen-like circular void breaks up the landscape of the top piece. Frankl’s choice of materials, even, gives insight to his embrace of the West. Cork veneer has the kind of casual warmth associated with the western lifestyle. He continued to employ sharp, contrasting colors in his designs, but he replaced the industrial colors (silver, red and black) of his New York days with earth tones–browns and tans.

Lot 248, Paul Frankl, Buffet, Designed c. 1951

Lot 248, Paul Frankl, Buffet, Designed c. 1951
March 1, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

Lot 247
Paul Frankl
Coffee table
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 5042
Johnson Furniture Company
14.25″ x 60″ diameter
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $12,000 – $15,000

Lot 248
Paul Frankl
Buffet
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 2240
Johnson Furniture Company
Branded “Johnson Furniture Company” and “2440”
32.25″ x 72″ x 19.5″
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 249
Paul Frankl
Two-tiered end tables (3)
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 5001
Johnson Furniture Company
Each branded “#5001″
Each: 24″ x 36″ x 33”
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158; Contemporary Designs by Paul T. Frankl, Johnson Furniture Company catalogue, c. 1950. N. pag.
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 250
Paul Frankl
Dressers (2)
Designed c. 1951
Model nos. 1061 and 1062 (highboy)
Johnson Furniture Company
Branded “Johnson Furniture Company” and “#1061” and “#1062″
45.25″ x 40″ x 22″; 32″ x 40″ x 22”
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000

Lot 251
Paul Frankl
Rectangular end tables and headboard (3)
Designed c. 1951
Model nos. 5015 and 1030
Johnson Furniture Company
End table branded “5015 #321”; headboard “#1030″
End tables each: 20″ x 30″ x 18″; Headboard: 34″ x 80″ x 3.25”
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 252
Paul Frankl
Desk
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 1069
Johnson Furniture Company
Branded “Johnson Furniture Company”
29.25″ x 54″ x 22″
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 253
Paul Frankl
Corner tables (2)
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 5029
Johnson Furniture Company
Each branded “#5029″
Each: 28.25″ x 32″ x 32”
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 254
Paul Frankl
Dining suite (7)
Designed c. 1951
Model nos. 2253 (table), 2254 1/2 (armchairs) and 2254 (side chairs)
Johnson Furniture Company
Each branded with model numbers
Table: 29.5″ x 72″ x 42″; Armchairs each: 32″ x 25″ x 25″; Side chairs each: 32″ x 21″ x 25″
Comprised of a table, two leaves, two armchairs, and four side chairs
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $6,000 – $8,000

Lot 255
Paul Frankl
Buffet
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 2250
Johnson Furniture Company
Branded “Johnson Furniture Company” and “#2250″ and a Johnson Furniture Company label
32.5″ x 72″ x 21”
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000

Lot 256
Paul Frankl
Dresser
Designed c. 1951
Model no. 2251
Johnson Furniture Company
Branded “Johnson Furniture Company” and #2251″
32.5″ x 48″ x 23″
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000

Lot 387
Paul Frankl
Bedroom suite (5)
Designed c. 1951
Johnson Furniture Company
Nightstands each: 24.25″ x 24″ x 17″; Headboard: 34″ x 80″ x 3.25″; Dresser: 36″ x 73″ x 22.5″; Highboy: 45″ x 40″ x 20.5″
Comprised of a pair of nightstands, dresser, highboy, and a headboard
Literature: Long, Christopher. Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. 158.
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

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