Google Doodle commemorates the 116th birthday of Altina Schinasi, an American designer renowned for creating the legendary ‘cat-eye’ eyeglass frame. Born on August 4, 1907, in Manhattan, New York, to immigrant parents, Schinasi’s artistic journey took her from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the vibrant art scene of Paris, where she pursued her passion for painting after completing her high school education, as stated in the Google Doodle blog post.
In Paris, Schinasi honed her artistic skills at The Art Students League, while also working as a window dresser for multiple stores along the famous Fifth Avenue. It was during this period that she had the privilege of collaborating with and learning from artistic giants like Salvador Dalí and George Grosz, whose influence played a pivotal role in shaping her creative vision.
However, it was during her time as a window display designer that Schinasi had her groundbreaking idea for the “cat-eye” eyeglass frame. She observed that women’s eyeglasses were limited to round frames with uninspired designs and set out to create a fresh and unique option for women.
Inspired by the captivating shape of Harlequin masks worn during the Carnevale festival in Venice, Italy, Schinasi envisioned eyeglass frames with pointed edges that would accentuate and flatter the wearer’s face. Despite facing multiple rejections from major manufacturers who considered her creation too unconventional, she persisted in her pursuit.
Her breakthrough finally came when a local shop owner recognized the potential of her design and requested an exclusive agreement for six months. The Harlequin eyeglasses swiftly gained popularity and became a fashion sensation among women in the US during the late 1930s and 1940s.
Schinasi’s innovative creation earned her significant recognition, including the prestigious Lord & Taylor American Design Award in 1939. Esteemed publications like Vogue and Life also acknowledged her contribution to the world of fashion.
Beyond her success in eyewear design, Schinasi ventured into filmmaking, producing a compelling documentary titled “George Grosz’ Interregnum” about her former teacher, the celebrated artist George Grosz. The film received widespread acclaim, earning an Academy Award nomination and winning first place at the Venice Film Festival in 1960.
As the years passed, Schinasi continued to explore new artistic pursuits. In her later years, she penned her memoir, “The Road I Have Traveled,” providing a glimpse into her extraordinary life journey. Additionally, she selflessly volunteered as an art therapist, using her creative talents to help others.
“Today, almost 100 years after its inception, Altina’s cat-eye design continues its influence in fashion accessory trends worldwide. Happy birthday to the woman who was a visionary in more ways than one!” Google stated in the Doodle blog post.
Altina Schinasi’s legacy as a visionary designer and artist lives on, not only through her iconic eyeglass frame but also through her contributions to the world of filmmaking and her selfless efforts as an art therapist. Her creativity and determination serve as an inspiration to aspiring artists and designers around the globe.