Ross Franklin Littell (1924 – 2000) American textile and furniture designer

Ross Littell featured image
Ross Littell featured image

Ross Franklin Littell (1924 – 2000) was an American textile and furniture designer known for his practical, innovative, and minimalist style as part of the Good Design movement of the 1950s. He was born in Los Angeles. 

Education

He graduated from Pratt Institute in New York with a degree in industrial design after serving in the military. 

Biography

He received an award from the American Institute of Decorators in 1949 when he was 25 years old for a low coffee table with tubular steel legs and a top made of birch dowels strung together within a gumwood frame with handles. The judges praised the table for its affordability, noting that it only cost $19.

Ross Littell’s signature designs were functional, purposeful, and enjoyable. The “New Furniture” line, which he designed with William Katavolos and Douglas Kelley for the Laverne Company in 1952, is now considered an essential collectable from the time. Its combination of angularity and elegance, Belgian marble, polished chrome, and woven white leather straps. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has the sling-leather and chrome-frame T-Chair from that series in its permanent design collection.

Littell’s work quickly drew the attention of well-known manufacturers such as Knoll and Herman Miller, with whom he did a lot of work in the 1950s and 1960s. Littell’s 1959 textile design Criss-Cross for Knoll received a citation of merit from the American Institute of Decorators. In 1960, he moved to Copenhagen, then to Italy, where he worked on textile and furniture designs for several well-known European companies, including Unika Vaev in Denmark and DePadova in Italy.

Recognition

The T Chair won the 1952 AID award for the best USA furniture. Their work was shown at the 1953 and 1955 ‘Good Design’ exhibitions at the New York Museum of Modern Art, including Littell’s textile designs, and 1983—84 ‘Design Since 1945’ exhibition of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Exhibitions

Solo exhibitions

  • 1993 OK Harris Gallery, New York City
    • Exhibition showing principally intarsia veneer reliefs comprising elements of geometry with illusive, shimmering overtones which constantly change depending on viewing angle.
  • 1983 The Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory, Copenhagen
    • White on white bas-reliefs on paper
  • 1982 Illums Bolighus, Copenhagen
    • White on white hand pressed bas-reliefs on paper
  • 1969 Herman Miller Showroom, New York City
    • Exhibition of “Luminars” shown for the first time in the USA
  • 1968 CitiBank, Milan
    • Exhibition of ten “Luminars”

Group exhibitions

  • 1993 Villa Olmo, Como, Italy
    • Scheduled for the invitational International Mini-Textile Art Exhibit No. 3, May 1993. Requirements: miniature piece 8 x 8 x 8” utilizing textile, fiber, or paper.
  • 1992 “Art Encounter,” Vittorio Veneto, Italy
    • An international exhibition featuring artists and craftsmen from five countries scheduled to travel to Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. Work by Littell included illusion reliefs pressed into cardboard as well as a set of wooden boxes with multi-directionally polished aluminum tops.
  • 1982 Aeroskobing Town Hall, Aero, Denmark
    • An exhibition shared with a ceramicist; Littell’s work included three large “Luminars”
  • 1980 Founded “Totem,” comprising a group of five artists exhibiting together in galleries and art clubs around Denmark. Work by Littell included “Luminars” and hand pressed bas-reliefs.
  • 1968 Oscar Woolens, London
    • “Luminars” and design selections.
  • 1965 Eriksholm Mansion, Helsingor, Denmark
    • Exhibitions of art pieces including the first “Luminars.”
  • 1958 Rome Gallery
    • Spring exhibition of work by Fulbright scholars which included Littell’s photographs of impressions of Italy

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Iovine, J. V. (2000, May 8). Ross Littell, 75, Who Designed Inventive Textiles and Furniture. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/05/08/nyregion/ross-littell-75-who-designed-inventive-textiles-and-furniture.html.

Ross Littell Biography. Casati Gallery. (2020, March 3). https://www.casatigallery.com/designers/ross-littell/.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, December 26). Ross F. Littell. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:17, May 13, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ross_F._Littell&oldid=996390932

Additional Reading

Arnold, R. (2009). The American look: Sportswear, fashion and the image of women in 1930s and 1940s New York. I.B. Tauris. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3DdQlgH.

Cogdell, C. (2004). Eugenic DDesign: Streamlining America in the 1930s. University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3ktwN0x.

Friedman, M. (n.d.). Making America Modern: Interior design in the 1930s. N.Y. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3Dl2JLK.

Gantz, C. (2014). Founders of American Industrial Design. McFarland. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3C35iAZ.

Hannah, G. G. (2006). Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the structure of visual relationships. Princeton Architectural Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3kwHPC9.

Langa, H. (2004). Radical Art: Printmaking and the Left in 1930s New York. University of California Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3qDo0ga.

Lutz, B., & Kroloff, R. (2010). Knoll: A modernist universe. Rizzoli. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3Hep1RM.

Meikle, J. L. (1979). Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925-1939. Temple Univ. Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3ooJ47p.

Schönberger Angela. (1990). Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design. Prestel-Verlag. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3C8fTuc.

Wall, J. (2018). Streamliner. Raymond Loewy and image-making in the age of American Industrial Design. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3DaS1rp.

Wilson, K. (2021). Mid-century modernism and the American body race, gender, and the politics of power in Design. Princeton University Press. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3c5OSNG.

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