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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Frank J. Davidhazy, Artisan

Frank J. Davidhazy was a talented young artist when he was lured from his New York City job in 1922 to the Furniture City. During the next 66 years his hand-decorated furniture became legendary in Grand Rapids and beyond. His painting and designs were synonymous with the best the industry had to offer, say furniture historians.

“At its height, the furniture industry in Grand Rapids was a big fraternity,” said Chris Carron, former curator of history for the Grand Rapids Public Museum. “In my opinion Frank was certainly one of the lynch pins of that fraternity.”

Mr. Davidhazy, was born in Hungary, April 17, 1901 and emigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1911 at age 10. His first job in the furniture industry was as an apprentice, hand-decorating furniture for the W.J. Sloane. Co. and during the same period attended classes at the Cooper-Union School.

In 1922 he moved to Grand Rapids to take the position of chief artist and stylist with the Robert W. Irwin Furniture Co. Davidhazy arrived at a time when furniture companies here were trying to change their image from producers of cheap, mail-order furniture to manufacturers of quality pieces, Carron said.

“I think this is one of the principal reasons why he was lured to Grand Rapids,” said Carron, who used Davidhazy as a resource for “The Furniture City,” a permanent exhibit at the museum. “In a place where manufacturing furniture was king, Frank Davidhazy sort of represented the pinnacle (of the industry).”

His designs favored the pastoral scenes found in 18th century French paintings, but the artist mixed his work with a quick wit and a love of storytelling.

In 1956 he and his son, Frank C. Davidhazy, formed the Davidhazy Furniture Studio, where he produced custom-decorated pieces until his retirement in 1988.

Davidhazy’s work can be found in homes across the country, and a few of his pieces are featured in the Museum. Its exhibit featured a recreation of the artist’s decorating studio, complete with his brushes and tools.

In addition to his work, Davidhazy was a life member of the Grand Rapids Furniture Designers Association. Frank J. Davidhazy died April 23, 1996, eight years after his retirement. He was 95.

Excerpted from the Grand Rapids Press, April 24, 1996.

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