About This Artwork

Paul Theodore Frankl
American, born Austria, 1886–1958

Skyscraper Cabinet, c. 1927

Painted wood
213.4 x 83.8 x 40 cm (84 x 33 x 15 3/4 in.)

Gift of the Antiquarian Society through Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Hunter III and Mr. and Mrs. Morris S. Weeden, 1998.567

Trained as an architect in Vienna and Berlin, Paul T. Frankl immigrated to New York in 1914 and established his own gallery. There he began to design interiors and champion the skyscraper as a source of a uniquely American modernist vision. The impetus behind the Skyscraper Cabinet, however, was distinctly rural. Frankl spent the summer of 1925 in Woodstock, New York, sketching ideas for new furniture designs and renovating his cabin. In an effort to organize his books, he fitted boards together to create a cabinet with “a rather large, bulky lower section and a slender, shallow upper part going straight to the ceiling. It had a new look; the neighbors came and said, ‘It looks just like the new skyscrapers.’” From then on, Frankl experimented with spare, geometric furniture that mimicked the setback contours of New York skyscrapers. By 1926 these pieces were touted in Good Furniture magazine as the “sky-scraper type of furniture, which is as American and as New Yorkish as Fifth Avenue itself.” The Art Institute’s monumental cabinet epitomizes Frankl’s designs. Its geometric form rests on a sharply molded base and consists of a bottom cabinet section surmounted by a series of compartments and shelves arranged in a pyramidlike fashion. Smooth, unadorned surfaces exemplify the tenets of modernist design.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Jennifer M. Downs, “ ‘The New Modern Feeling’: A Catalogue of the Collection,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 27, 2 (2001), pp. 18, 30-32, no. 5.

Christopher Long, "Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design" (Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 70–71, 74, fig. 59.

Christopher Long, "The Viennese Secessionsstil and Modern American Design" Studies int he Decorative Arts 14, 2 (Spring-Summer 2007)pp. 6-44 (ill.).

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 48.

Ownership History

Private collection, New York; private collection, Michigan, 1986; Historical Design, Inc., New York City, to 1998; sold to the Art Institute, 1998.

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