Google Doodle honors Altina Schinasi, creator of enduring “cat-eye” eyeglasses

Google Doodle honors renowned designer Altina Schinasi on her 116th birthday.

In honor of Altine “Tina” Schinasi’s 116th birthday on August 4, the Google search engine created a Doodle to honor American designer Altine “Tina” Schinasi, best known for creating the well-known “cat-eye” eyeglass frame.

On August 4, 1907, Altina Schinasi was born in Manhattan, New York. She would have turned 116 years old today. Schinasi, a child of immigrants, her father was a Sephardic Jewish Turk and her mother was from Salonica. she studied art at The Art Students League in New York and began working for various retailers on the renowned Fifth Avenue as a window dresser.

Bold colors, geometric patterns, and abstract forms were common in Altina Schinasi’s artwork. She had a remarkable talent for combining texture and color to produce vibrant and eye-catching designs. Her work drew inspiration from a variety of genres, including modernist, African, and Native American art. She is therefore regarded as one of the most significant textile designers of the 20th century, and museums and private collectors all over the world continue to admire and collect her works.

She taught ceramics at the University of California, Berkeley and won the American Crafts Council’s Gold Medal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum all still have her pieces on display.

Altina Schinasi has created a number of notable works in addition to her larger body of work, such as the “Altina Schinasi” rug designed for the Knoll Textile Company in 1955, the “Aphrodite” ceramic vase made for the Steuben Glass Company in 1960, and the “Opus II” necklace designed in 1965. These pieces further showcase her artistic ability and creative design philosophy.

When Altina Schinasi was working as a designer of window displays, she came up with the revolutionary concept for the “cat-eye” frame. She set out to develop a new and distinctive option for women after realizing that their choices for eyeglasses were limited to round frames with uninspiring designs. She imagined eyeglass frames with pointed edges that would draw attention to and enhance the wearer’s face, drawing inspiration from the seductive shape of Harlequin masks worn during the Carnevale festival in Venice, Italy.

Altina Schinasi persevered in her pursuit despite receiving numerous rejections from major manufacturers who thought her invention was too unconventional, cutting paper prototypes of her inventive design. When a nearby store owner saw the potential in her design and asked for an exclusivity agreement for six months, that was when she had her breakthrough.

In the US during the late 1930s and early 1940s, women quickly adopted the Harlequin eyeglasses as a fashion statement. Her creation brought her widespread acclaim, including the esteemed Lord & Taylor American Design Award in 1939. She was recognized for her contributions to the fashion industry by prestigious publications like Vogue and Life.