Frink, Elisabeth

Frink, Elisabeth
   b. 1930, Thurlow, Sussex; d. 1993, Woolland, Dorset
   Sculptor
   Born of widely-travelled parents with Dutch and French forebearers, the sculptor Elisabeth Frink spent her childhood in England. After training at Guildford and Chelsea, she taught at St Martin’s College of Art. She enjoyed a formative period of her adolescence on the Continent, and also lived in France for some years. Her personal discovery of alternative traditions in other lands may have fortified her determination to go against the tide in the early 1960s when Anthony Caro at St Martin’s became the main force in British sculpture. Rejecting his doctrine of Abstraction, she preferred more humane tendencies in sculpture, remaining true to a style that, though never literally realist, was always essentially figurative. For her, as for the Italian masters she had admired during a brief visit during her adolescence, and for Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), whose Symbolist sculpture had impressed her in Paris, living forms, especially the human body, remained the great source of inspiration. The male form particularly fascinated her; this may, as she suggested, be related to the fact that her father, who was often absent from home, was always a glamorous figure in her eyes. Though Frink left quantities of drawings and sometimes carved stone, her favoured medium was plaster, which she build up on an armature to create forms. Others cast these in bronze after-wards, but she would then work over the surface and experiment with different forms of patination, seeking always to control the play of light and to add colour. Much of her work (for example, her Heads with Goggles) came in series. After doing all she could on a piece, she might decide that further changes would be abortive, so she would cease work on it and leave it as it stood. Then, after a pause, she would return to the subject with another essay—perhaps several—in the same series. In other words, Frink’s work can, even more readily than that of most artists, be seen as a sequence of developments in a certain direction. Though only one of her works—an early one at that—was bought by the Tate Gallery during her lifetime, Frink received honours such as the DBE as well as many commissions for work for prominent sites. A fine example is her Horse and Rider in Dover Street, London.
   Further reading
    Lucie-Smith, E. and Frink, E. (1994) Frink: A Portrait, London: Bloomsbury.
   CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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