Jean-Michel Frank

FRANCE (1895–1941)

Jean-Michel Frank was perhaps the most influential designer and decorator of the Parisian haute monde of the 1930s and ’40s. Various contemporary French designers such as Andree Putman and Bonetti and Garouste have cited Frank as a spiritual teacher and inspiration.

Born into the wealthy European Frank clan (Anne Frank was a distant cousin), Jean-Michel came to interior design after being inspired by the artistic circles of Paris and Venice. Frank immediately established his reputation and his signature look with the design of the Paris apartment of the Vicomte Charles de Noailles and his wife, Marie-Laure. The Noailles were leading progressives of their day and patrons of the major painters of Paris; Frank’s style of understated luxury – vellum-sheathed walls, bleached leather, lacquer and shagreen – perfectly complemented the Picassos and Braques on their walls. Frank’s spare, rectilinear details were inspired by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, while the subtle use of rich, unexpected materials was purely Jean-Michel Frank. His blocky, rectangular club chairs and sofas have been endlessly copied and produced by many admirers, and he is credited for the design of the modern Parsons table, a stark form that Frank would embellish with the most luxurious finish.

The look that Frank created, admiringly called by the French as “le style Frank,” continues to exert its influence through the powerful combination of the simplest forms and the most exquisite materials to produce objects that are noble and utterly modern.

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