ELISABETH FRINK CH DBE RA (1930-1993)
Elisabeth Frink was born in 1930 in Thurlow, Suffolk. From an early age she was fascinated with the outdoors – she could ride and shoot and loved dogs, all activities which were considered masculine at the time. She began her education at a convent in Exmouth and later studied at Guildford and Chelsea Schools of Art from 1947-1953, where she was taught by Bernard Meadows and Willi Soukop.
Frink achieved commercial success, also at an early age, when in 1952 Beaux Art Gallery in London held her first major solo exhibition and the Tate Gallery purchased the work “Bird”. This was the start of a highly acclaimed career. Frink attained a reputation as one of Britain’s most important post-war sculptors, in the “Geometry of Fear” School, which included Bernard Meadows, Kenneth Armitage and Eduardo Paolozzi. Her subject matter includes men, birds, dogs, horses and religious motifs.
Frink is best known for her bronze outdoor sculpture which has a distinctive cut and worked surface. They are created by adding plaster to an armature which is then worked back into, using a chisel and surform. This technique was very different from the classical modelling tradition used by Rodin, for example.
In the 1960’s Frink’s fascination with the human form was clear in her series of falling figures and winged men. While living in France from 1967-1970 she began a series of heads – monumental and threatening male heads known as the goggled heads. On returning to England, she focused on the male nude, with mask-life features, for example in “Running Man” (1976). Her sculpture drew on archetypes expressing male strength, struggle and aggression
In 1982 a new publishing firm approached Frink to produce a Catalogue Raisonne of all her works to date and the Royal Academy planned a retrospective of her life’s work. The retrospective was a success and more exhibitions of her work were held at this time. Frink always kept up a hectic pace of sculpting and exhibiting, but in early 1991 she had an operation for cancer of the oesophagus Weeks later, she was creating more sculptures and preparing for solo exhibitions. In September she had a second operation, but this did not hold her back and she travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana and New York City, with successful exhibitions. Her health was deteriorating but she still worked on a colossal statue, “Risen Christ” for Liverpool Cathedral. Just one week after its installation, Frink died from cancer on 18 April 1993, aged 62. Her husband had predeceased her by only a few months.
“War Horse” and “Walking Madonna” can be seen at Chatsworth House. Other work is at the Jerwood Sculpture Park at Ragley Hall Her penultimate sculpture “Desert Quartet” (1990) was given Grade II listing in 2007. Before she died in 1993 Frink had given master classes at the Sir Henry Doulton School of Sculpture. Rosemary Barnett took over as principal of the School and in 1990 Frink met Harry Everington there and they collaborated to form the Frink School of Figurative Sculpture , as they shared an artistic outlook. The School opened in 1996 with an emphasis on sculptural form, which was in decline at the time, with increased Conceptualism in sculpture schools in the UK.