Dame Elisabeth Frink

Dates1930 - 1993
RolesArtist
NationalityBritish

Elisabeth Frink's primary subjects are basic and familiar--men, dogs, horses, and birds. Frink reduced these forms to their essence, imbuing them both with dignity and mystery.

Frink grew up during World War II and violence materializes in much of her work. Her father served as an army officer and her family lived near an airfield in the east of England. After the war, Frink attended Guildford School of Art followed by Chelsea School of Art. While still studying at Chelsea, she sold her sculpture Bird to London's Tate Gallery. The bird theme would occupy her over the next two decades. Her earliest birds--often menacing, predatory creatures--powerfully convey post-war fears and fascinations.

Beginning in the late 1950s, Frink explored her interest in flight by creating sculptures of winged men and a series of figures crashing down from the sky. In 1964, she began a series of haunting soldiers' heads followed by the celebrated "Goggle Head" forms. These menacing male busts, their eyes concealed by sunglasses, portrayed for Frink the brutality of the Algerian war. In the late 1960s, she moved to the south of France. Wild horses in the region inspired many sculptures. On returning to England in 1973, she focused on male nudes with mask-like features and attenuated limbs.

Like Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore, Frink built her forms with plaster directly on a metal armature. She would often carve away from the plaster to create a more dynamic surface. The finished form could then be cast in bronze. Frink's ability to create ambitious figures that coexist with the landscape they inhabit earned her many public commissions and popular acclaim in Britain.