Beaux Arts London presents an exhibition of work by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993), internationally acclaimed as one of Britain’s leading post-war sculptors, highlighting significant periods in the artist’s working life and concentrating on her intense scrutiny of the male form.
'When I think of Frink, it is first and immediately of heroes and their beasts: huge men standing or running, their cannonball heads impassive ...' (Peter Shaffer, Elisabeth Frink Catalogue Raisonné: Sculpture to 1984)
‘She spoke of her sculptures as ‘inspired by a respect for life which seems to be always threatened by death’. Frink investigated this polarity by celebrating the male form in scarred broken textures and smooth tactile surfaces. ‘My sculptures of the male figure are both man and mankind. In these two categories are all the sources of all my ideas for the human figure’, she said.’ (Andrew Lambirth, Elisabeth Frink Catalogue 2015)
As Germaine Greer states in the Elisabeth Frink Catalogue 2009, ‘(…) Frink’s male hero and male victim are one and the same.’
In 1984, Frink puts this into perspective: ‘I think that my figures of men now say so much more about how a human feels than how he looks anatomically. (…) One of the most striking and dramatic examples of this is The Walking Man (Riace 1), which will be on display, with his white mask, derived from photos of 5th century BC Greek sculptures discovered near Reggio in Italy. These big bronze warriors were extremely well-preserved, painted in rusty reds and green, with coloured eyes, shields, helmets and beards.’ (Andrew Lambirth, Elisabeth Frink Catalogue 2015).
Frink's work is distinguished by her commitment to naturalistic forms and her range of subjects includes men, birds, dogs, horses and religious motifs. She contributed widely to the language of modern figurative sculpture through her ability to express the inherent ambiguities of human and animal existence and the psychological impact of aggression and vulnerability.
'In 1967 she and her new husband Edward Pool moved to ‘Le Village’ in France. The bright, searing light of the Languedoc affected her work for as she stated “I went from doing very rough, textured sculptures in London to surfaces which were rather smooth and worked over - filed”. A series of abstract bird forms, Mirage II, (...) were inspired by visits to the Camargue, where “people on horseback or birds – flamingos in the distance – used to assume these strange stalking shapes, floating…” ' (Annette Ratuszniak, Elisabeth Frink Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture 1947-93; documenting for the first time the artist's complete sculptural output in a single volume).
Since her death in 1903, Elisabeth Frink’s popularity stands at a new peak. Her domineering disembodied heads, evasive running men and affectionately observed horses have become a widely recognised force in the annals of 20th century British art. Having exhibited these works since the early seventies, this year Beaux Arts will show a selection of carefully selected sculptures. Also on display will be a selection of works on Paper, with subjects varying from the Head of Christ to falling eagles, many of which express a certain masculine strength and aggression.
Her work fills the walls of some of the World’s most important Art Collections, among them The Courtauld, The Tate and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, as well as gracing some of England’s most beautiful cathedrals - Coventry, Liverpool and Salisbury amongst many.
‘It seems to me that I have known them all my life, these mythic and modern beings, encasing in primitive lineaments our most abiding strifes’ (Peter Shaffer, Elisabeth Frink Catalogue Raisonné: Sculpture to 1984)