Green Birds, linen, designed 1943–1944 by Josef Frank
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Green Birds, linen, designed 1943–1944 by Josef Frank

Credit: Svenskt Tenn

Josef Frank (1885-1967), an Austrian-born designer who argued for a more humane, less uniform style of Modernism during the machine age, will have his legacy deservedly embellished by an upcoming exhibit at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago. The Enduring Designs of Josef Frank will feature Frank’s furniture and textiles, whose floral patterns and colorful and eclectic designs represented a departure from the prevailing cold, unsentimental, and ahistorical extremes that characterized Modernism in the first half of the 20th century. Frank immigrated to Sweden in 1933 to escape the specter of Nazi anti-Semitism in Austria, and his career flourished in Stockholm, where he became the chief designer for Svenskt Tenn, a firm founded by Estrid Ericson. In recent years, amid the growing popular enthusiasm for Modernism, Frank’s more than 2,000 furniture and 200 textile designs have been embraced by an international clientele. The exhibit, already featured at the San Francisco Airport Museum, the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, and the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, finds a fitting host in Chicago, given how Frank’s career paralleled that of Mies, who selected the Austrian to contribute designs to a German housing fair in 1927. Through Nov. 25. • swedishamericanmuseum.org