Book Club: A fascinating paperback that chronicle’s French designer Jean-Michel Frank’s life
Hedonism, costume balls, and the opium-laden atmosphere of the 1920s, set Paris up for a cultural revival known as the Roaring Twenties—or as the French called them, les années folles (the crazy years)—at the very heart of which sat a gifted, albeit tragic Jean-Michel Frank, the protagonist of Assouline’s latest volume. A collection of archival photographs and illustrations, indirect accounts and literary excerpts are used to chronicle the French designer’s life and work in this large-format book. Jean-Michel Frank is an ode to the fashionable decorator’s love for all things sparse and beautiful, enclosed within a textured hardcover shaded somewhere between beige and white—perhaps a nod to its subject’s predilection for “non-colours”.
The youngest of three and the son of a banker, Frank grew up in Paris’s upscale 16th arrondissement. (Diarist Anne Frank was his cousin). His distinguished social circle gave him the opportunity to round up an impressive clientele. The 1920s and 1930s saw Frank art directing interiors for hotels, penthouses, villas, and showrooms for the Parisian and Western haut monde, including Elsa Schiaparelli, Charles Templeton Crocker and Nelson Rockefeller. He is credited with introducing Paris to luxe pauvre, his philosophy of ‘impoverished luxury’. Stripping interiors down to their essentials, finding beauty in simple proportions—all constituted le style Frank. His breakthrough came in 1926 when he was sought out by patrons Marie-Laure and Charles de Noailles to transform their hôtel particulier. Sporting walls covered in parchment tiles, armchairs upholstered in leather, and rooms decorated with ...
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