Frink, Dame Elisabeth

Eisabeth Frink was born in 1930 in Thurlow, Suffolk, the daughter of Ralph, an officer in the 7th Dragoon Guards and of the renowned Indian Army cavalry regiment, Skinner’s Horse. From a very early age, Elisabeth developed a love and fascination with the outdoors. She was competent in riding and shooting and adored dogs – all of which were, at the time, considered male activities and attributes. It could be said that this fascination with masculinity would become a dominant feature of her art.

Having begun her education at a convent in Exmouth, Frink studied at Guildford and Chelsea schools of art between 1947 and 1953, where Bernard Meadows and Willi Soukop were her tutors. She herself went on to teach at Chelsea (1953-60) and St Martin’s School of Art (1955-7).

Frink achieved commercial success at a young age when, in 1952, Beaux Arts Gallery in London held her first major solo exhibition and the Tate Gallery purchased one work entitled ‘Bird’. This marked the beginning of a highly acclaimed career in which Frink earned a reputation as one of Britain’s most important post-war sculptors.

As such, she was awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Surrey (1977), Open University (1983), University of Warwick (1983), University of Cambridge (1988), University of Exeter (1988), University of Oxford (1989) and University of Keele (1989). In 1977 Frink was elected a member of the Royal Academy. Her achievements also earned her a CBE (1969) and in 1982 she was created a Dame of the British Empire.

Frink is well known for her monumental commissions of which there have been several. These include ‘Eagle’ installed at the JFK memorial in Dallas, Texas; ‘Warhorse’, on display at Chatsworth; and ‘Risen Christ’, for Liverpool Cathedral.

She also exhibited regularly, particularly at the Waddington Galleries and was an accomplished painter and etcher, illustrating Aesop’s Fables (1967), The Canterbury Tales (1971), and the Odyssey and Iliad (1974 – 1975).

Frink’s unique sculptural style is characterised by a rough treatment of the surface, so that each piece is richly embedded with the artist’s creative process and personal impression. At the same time, these highly textured surfaces project the vitality of her subject, giving Frink’s sculpture an almost abstract quality.

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