Dame Elizabeth Frink (1930-1993)

Sculptor and Printmaker

Elisabeth Frink, Goggle Head, 1969<br/>(Courtesy of The Elisabeth Frink Estate)

Elisabeth Frink, Goggle Head, 1969
(Courtesy of The Elisabeth Frink Estate)

Elisabeth Frink was born in 1930 at The Grange, Thurlow in Suffolk and she died in 1993 of cancer.

During the Second World War she was evacuated to Exmouth in Devon where she became a full time student at the Convent of the Holy Family where she had been attending Saturday morning drawing classes. In 1947 Elisabeth Frink moved to Surrey when she became a student at the Guildford School of Art in Stoke Park Mansion, Stoke Park, Guildford.

Frink studied under Trevor Tennant at the Guildford School of Art and started with life drawing and studies of anatomy, textile design, painting, sculpture and architecture. Her growing interest in sculpture, under Tennant, and books on Rodin all helped her to focus her attention on sculpture. She left Guildford School of Art in 1949 and just before she left she created a series of drawings of horse and riders which were linked with her reading The Apocalypse that year.

In 1949 Frink moved to London to continue her studies at the Chelsea School of Art. Under the tutelage of Bernard Meadows, a protégé of Henry Moore, Frink began to use plaster of paris on an armature of steel rods as a medium in itself and not just as a stage in a longer technical process. At that time her plaster sculptures were not cast in bronze because of the high level of cost to do so, so she gave them semi-permanency by varnishing them with shellac.

Goggle Head by Elisabeth Frink, 1969<br/>(Courtesy of The Lightbox)

Goggle Head by Elisabeth Frink, 1969
(Courtesy of The Lightbox)

Frink had her first exhibition at the Beaux Art Gallery in 1952, whilst still a student. At this exhibition Tate Gallery and The Arts Council bought editions of Bird, 1952, which marked the beginning of her reputation as a sculptor. Although Frink was a committed modernist, she rejected abstract formalism which came to dominate art practice in Britain following the Second World War, preferring instead to develop her own form of expressive naturalism. Frink’s work portrays an intense preoccupation with certain themes, such as a fascination with the positive and negative side of human nature and the beauty and the harshness of the natural world.

In 1982 Frink was awarded a Dame of the British Empire (DBE), and in 1985 the Royal Academy of Arts held a major retrospective exhibition showcasing her life’s work.

Frink is just one of the talented Surrey Women featured in Surrey Museums Month 2017. To find out more about the event and other celebrated Surrey Women click here.

Text kindly produced by The Lightbox.

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