Dame Elisabeth Frink, CH RA (1930-1993)

Sculptor, draughtsman and teacher. She studied at Guildford School of Art, 1949-53, under Willi Soukop and Bernard Meadows. She taught at Chelsea School of Art from 1951-61, St Martin’s School of Art, 1954-62, and at the Royal College of Art from 1965-67. After early exhibiting with the London Group, Frink had a one-man show at St George’s Gallery in 1955 and four years later at Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York. Over the years she established herself as a sculptor concerned with themes, such as goggle men, running men and horses with and without riders. She also worked on many major public commissions, such as Wild Board for Harlow New Town; Blind Beggar and Dog at Bethnal Green and a noble horse and rider on Piccadilly.

Dame Elisabeth Frink, CH RA (1930-1993), Horizontal Birdman, 1962


Bronze, edition 7/9
16 in (40.5 cm) long

Collections: Beaux Arts, London; Private Collection, Dorset

Literature: Annette Ratuszniak , Elisabeth Frink Catalogue Raisonne of Sculpture 1947-93,2013 p.86, cat no. FCR 114 (ill)

This is the maquette for Frink’s commission in 1962 for Manchester airport of a memorial to aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown, who made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919.

The bronze belongs with a wider series of Birdman subjects inspired by photographs the artist had seen of the French adventurer Leo Valentin. Valentin was famous for attempting to fly by attaching bird-like wings to his arms. At an air show in Liverpool in 1956 he fell to his death. Reports of Valentin’s death resonated with Frink who always had a deep interest in flying (while simultaneously being terrified of heights). She produced a series of bronzes of men falling, a macabre motif which developed into the swooping Icarus forms of the Birdmen who, while struggling under the weight and impracticality of their wings, remain ever hopefully in flight.

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