Dame Elisabeth Frink was a wonderful sculptor, renowned for her interpretations of animals and men (very rarely would she depict the female form). It is a privilege to bring you another ‘artist I have known’.
A Tribute to Alcock and Brown, aviators who made the first non-stop transatlantic flight, June 1919
Her obituary in The Times noted the three essential themes in her work as the nature of Man; the “horseness” of horses; and the divine in human form.
I would encapsulate the residing effects of Lis’s art as: Emotion, Vulnerability, Power and Aggression.
Lis Frink studied at the Guildford School of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts) (1946–1949) and then under Willi Soukop at the Chelsea School of Art (1949–1953). She was part of a post war group of British sculptors, dubbed the ‘Geometry of Fear’ school which includes the likes of Reg Butler, Bernard Meadows, Kenneth Armitage and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Her works comprise in excess of 400 sculptures as well as a collection of drawings and lithographs. This is all the more remarkable as she never had an assistant.
The early years were clearly affected by her visions of WWII: Belsen, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Post-war Britain was pretty austere with rationing and the sombre reality of the extent of loss.
Sir Alec Guinness
Wounded birds and images of falling winged men are evocative of the RAF pilots who returned to Suffolk in bombers ablaze after their missions.
She once had to hide in a hedge to escape the attention of a German fighter plane.
Frink’s art moved into the scaling technique of adding to a form and building tension rather than the traditional ‘cutting away’ method.
She was also influenced by the very different forms of Aboriginal art following a trip to Australia
In 1975, she made one of her signature pieces, a group of four heads, all seemingly at peace. They represented those who had died for their principles.
‘In a sense, these sculptures are a tribute to Amnesty International’, she explained. ‘The heads represent the inhumanity of man – they are the heads of victims.’
The faceless assassin
Dame Elisabeth remained a loyal and generous supporter of such organisations throughout her life. The violence and cruelty of man was anathema.
Married three times, her third marriage to Alexander Csaky was happy and they settled in Woolland, Dorset, a decent Sunday walk from my family home. Their traditional country house was complimented by a huge circular studio which overlooked a garden adorned with magnificent sculptures.
Dame Elisabeth Frink, scarcely known by the public but revered in the International World of the Arts.
Enjoy more of her wonderful work:
Man/Bull (a minotaur)
Man on a horse
The walking Madonna, her penultimate work and a rare female representation
All these works are by Dame Elisabeth Frink and are the property of the Elisabeth Frink Estate.