Paul T. Frankl produced this iconic "Speed" chair and ottoman, remarkable sectional sofa, and accompanying pieces in response to a commission from a well-to-do West Coast couple. The original upholstery tag on the underside of one of the sofa cushions reads: Frankl Galleries, 3281 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, Calif. 6/11/1936. The whole ensemble, which features a matching color scheme, was undoubtedly made at this time and intended for a single room.
Frankl had only recently relocated to Los Angeles from New York, and the pieces in this group are an early example of his emerging California idiom. The design of the "Speed" chair and matching ottoman dates from his last period in New York, and the sectional sofa (lot 49) is closely related to a similar but smaller unit Frankl made for his own apartment there around 1933. Other details, such as the red and black lacquer finish, first appeared in his work even earlier, in the late 1920s. On the other hand, the large coffee table (lot 51), with its vaguely East Asian forms, is a harbinger of Frankl's later California designs, which drew on both Japanese and Chinese models, and the sofa's simple, straightforward construction, crisp detailing, and streamlined corners and edges are emblematic of the sophisticated and elegant interiors Frankl fashioned for his many Hollywood clients in this period. Although the chair and ottoman were by this time standard items at Frankl's Wilshire Boulevard gallery, the monumental sofa, equally large table, and a much smaller low table (lot 50) almost certainly represent custom pieces, made specifically to meet his clients' needs.
A 1949 invoice from the family's collection for a hassock (now lost) and a console (lot 54), which Frankl designed for the Johnson Furniture Company, shows that his relationship with the family continued for more than a decade and a half.
Associate Professor of Architecture and Design History, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin
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