Newly discovered early Frink exhibited for first time
Beaux Arts presents a fascinating exhibition of work by Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993), RA, one of Britain’s
most important post-war sculptors.
The centre-piece of the show will be a new casting (by Frink’s original foundry Morris Singer) of a
recently discovered, life-size plaster of Frink’s Birdman (c1956/9). The plaster maquette was purchased at
auction by The Frink Estate, whom Beaux Arts represents, in April 2008.
It’s rare for a plaster of this age to have survived but this one had been given to the owner by the artist
herself almost half a century ago, in 1960, and had been kept safely out of harm’s way in a London flat.
Frink produced a number of Birdmen in the late 1950s and 60s during one of the most productive periods of
her career and the sculpture represents a fusion of some of her most important themes; her fascination with
the male figure and her decision to depict man as a vulnerable, waif-like creature, caught up in the terrors of
life. (She was equally capable of course of portraying man as the hero, strong and untouchable.) Its helmetlike
head also reveals the contemporary preoccupation with the space race that was then dominating news
headlines.The figure is slightly ethereal, balanced on spindly legs with, according to Frink, ‘fractured wings
or the debris of war and heroics’.
As Germaine Greer says in her catalogue essay to the show, ‘For 40 years, as fashions ebbed and
flowed and isms rose and fell around her, Elisabeth Frink kept her eye firmly fixed on her great theme, the
paradox of masculinity. [...] Frink’s male hero and male victim are one and the same. Her Birdman strains to
fly but will never leave the ground.’
She continues: ‘Frink was as uninterested in the female form as both Richier and Bourgeois are
interested in it. She said that she found men’s bodies more beautiful. She was after all motivated by
the same feeling that drove men to paint women, by sublimated desire. [...] If men choose to sculpt
female figures because they are the desirable other, women may do the same, but so far only Frink
has managed it.’
The Tate was an early buyer of Frink’s Birdman sculptures. The Estate’s intention is to donate the original
plaster to The Art Fund so that the public can see at first hand Frink’s working process.
The show also includes a robed figure from the Dorset Martyr group (1985/6), which Frink originally
produced as a commission for the town of Dorchester, and which stands as a memorial to persecuted
people everywhere. Sculpture prices range from £20,000 (Pilgrim, 1983) to £225,000 (Dorset Martyr Robed
Figure, 1985/6); the Birdman is £180,000 plus VAT (an edition of four, plus an artist’s copy - one of the
edition has already been sold to a private collector). The exhibition also includes a selection of her drawings
For further information or images, contact Emma Lilley on 020 7437 5799