French designer. He studied at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, Paris, from 1904. In 1915 his two brothers were killed in World War I, followed by his father’s suicide and his mother’s death in a mental institution. As a result, in 1920 Frank found himself with a substantial family inheritance, enabling him to travel extensively and to move in the élite circles of fashionable Paris. In 1927 he commissioned the French designer–craftsman Adolphe Chanaux (1887–1965) to decorate his apartment, an event that spurred a partnership based on shared viewpoints. Chanaux and Frank accepted several commissions for furniture and interior design, including a spare, all-white apartment interior (1927) for the couturier Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973). Frank’s fame as an arbiter of French taste spread abroad, and in the same year he decorated the hall and salon of the San Francisco apartment of American businessman Templeton Crocker, in liaison with Jean Dunand, who designed the décor of the remaining rooms. The interiors were featured in the February 1927 issue of American Vogue (see Duncan). Frank was a keen judge of scale, form and texture, designing clean-lined, cubic furniture in an array of exotic veneers, including straw marquetry, snake- and sharkskin, undressed kid, vellum, parchment, cane and gypsum (e.g. armchair veneered in sharkskin, c. 1927–9; New York, Barry Friedman priv. col., see Duncan). He advocated uncluttered rooms with neutral colour schemes (earth tones, ochres, cream) and parchment-lined walls, the use of precious woods, hand-sewn leather upholstery and such materials as ivory, rock crystal, quartz or alabaster for sculptural lamp bases and sconces. His interiors were based on classical proportions, stripped of relief ornamentation but enhanced with sumptuous finishes, and Baroque Revival objects modified by Surrealism, notably his moulded plaster wall sconces in the shape of hands holding Roman torches. He commissioned an illustrious group of artists and craftsmen to contribute a range of designs, working with Alberto and Diego Giacometti (table bases, andirons, light fixtures of bronze or plaster), Salvador Dalí (screens and furniture), the architect Emilio Terry (furniture and interior layout) and Christian Bérard (carpet designs). Cabinetmaking, veneering and varnishing were carried out in Paris at Chanaux’s workshop on the Rue Montauban with showrooms for display at 140 Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In 1939 Frank left Paris for a brief sojourn in Buenos Aires and from there travelled to New York, where he was offered a lectureship at the School of Fine and Applied Arts. The Paris operation was closed down and later ransacked by the Nazis. In 1941, in a state of depression, he jumped to his death from a New York building. Led by American decorator Billy Baldwin (1903–83), Frank’s work was rediscovered by a new generation of interior designers in the late 1970s and 1980s.
From Grove Art Online
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