Google on August 4, 2023, celebrated the life of Altina Schinasi, an american artist, designed and inventor, who is known for designing the Harlequin eye glass frame or ‘cat eye’ frame. She was born on this day in 1907 in Manhattan, New York to immigrant parents. “Her mother was a native of Salonica (then in the Ottoman Empire) and her father was a Sephardic Jewish Turk ,” Google noted.
Apart from the famous ‘cat eye’ frame, Ms. Schinasi had patented many inventions throughout her career and produced documentaries too, Google pointed.
Ms. Schinasi studied painting in Paris and after returning to the US, she studied art at The Art Students League in New York and took a position as a window dresser for multiple stores on Fifth Avenue.
The ‘cat eye’ frame invention
While at work, Altina noticed that the only option for women’s glasses back then was round frames. This observation inspired her to create the ‘cat eye’ frame. She recalled seeing people wear Harlequin masks in Venice, Italy, during the Carnevale festival.
She designed frames on this basis and approached manufacturers — all of them had rejected her. However, a local shop owner believed in her and asked for an exclusive design. The Harlequin glasses became a success.
By the late 1930s and through the 1940s, the frame became a fashion accessory in the US.
Ms. Schinasi was awarded the Lord & Taylor American Design Award in 1939 for her invention, and was recognised by major magazines including Vogue and Life.
Following this success, she then ventured into films.
In 1960, she produced a documentary about artist George Grosz, who was also her teacher, and titled it George Grosz’ Interregnum. It was nominated for an Academy Award and won first place at the Venice Film Festival.
She was also a writer and and published her book The Road I Have Traveled (1995).
Ms. Schinasi wasvolunteered as an art therapist.
(With inputs from Google YouTube channel)