Jean-Michel Frank profoundly impacted the field of design with his timeless style of refined modernity. Born in Paris in 1895, Frank began his formal schooling studying law at the Lycee Janson de Sailly. It was in his teens that Frank befriended the prominent experimental writer René Crevel, who introduced Frank to the aesthetics of Surrealism. Crevel made important entrées for Frank into the glamorous cafe society of expat Paris that included Cole Porter, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and Luis Bunuel. While Frank initially worked as a private secretary, starting in 1921, he began to design interiors. Just two years later in 1923, Frank was successfully pursuing design full-time. By 1930, Frank was so popular that he had already designed fifteen interiors, including the apartment of Elsa Schiaparelli and a set of interiors for Noel Coward.
That same year, Frank became director of Chanaux-Pelletier, the workshop that had been fabricating his designs. Frank’s tenure as director was marked by the introduction of historical elements to his furniture, much like the Romanesque form present in the pair of gilt metal guéridons (lot 42). In 1932 in Argentina, the brothers Ignacio and Ricardo Pirovano opened the design atelier Comte, which began retailing Frank’s designs. His furniture was an immediate sensation in Argentina, and Comte soon entered into an exclusive contract to sell and produce Frank’s designs in South America. One of the design elements that Frank was known for was his contradictory approach of austere luxury. His forms were refined to absolute simplicity, but he would employ luxurious materials like limed oak, fine shagreen, and most particularly, rich leather, as seen in the settee (lot 34), pair of armchairs (lot 35), and two pairs of side chairs (lots 37 and 38) offered here. Fleeing the Nazis after their invasion of France, Frank first settled in Argentina before traveling to America in 1941. Frank tragically passed away in 1941 soon after moving to New York, and he left behind a legacy of design that was a perfect balance between luxury and simplicity of form.
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