FRINK, Dame Elisabeth Jean

1930 - 1993

Elisabeth Frink

Born at The Grange, Thurlow, Suffolk on 14 November 1930, only daughter of Herbert Ralph Cuyler Frink (1899-1974), cavalry officer, and his wife, Jean Kathleen née Conway-Gordon (1909-1997), a colonel's daughter who met and married in India. Frink's early years were spent travelling with her army father, who was serving with the 4th–7th dragoon guards, to Shorncliffe, Kent, Salisbury Plain, Aldershot, and Edinburgh, but their home remained at Thurlow and about 1960 they moved to a modern house called 'Cuylers' down The Drift at Thurlow where they remained until 1984, when her widowed mother joined her daughter in Dorset. In 1940 her father was stationed at Kingston, Dorset, close to the Purbeck quarries and the magnificent ruin of Corfe Castle; both sites impressed her enough for her to make Dorset her home some thirty years later. Frink started to draw when she was thirteen and her subjects were men on skeletal horses rendered in ink and wash, which she called ‘apocalyptic’. At sixteen she won a place at Guildford School of Art and in 1947 started in the painting school, but moved over to sculpture when the head of department was sculptor Willi Soukop (1907-1995) after two years at Guildford and, following Soukop, applied to Chelsea School of Art in 1949, where she studied until 1953. She perfected her own method of modelling and carving in plaster of Paris, a practice used by the head of department there, Bernard Meadows (1915-2005), also by Henry Moore (1898-1986), a visiting tutor. In 1951 Frink visited Paris for the first time and in 1952 received her first major commission, a figure of St John Bosco, for the new church of St John Bosco in Woodley, near Reading, Berkshire. Her last religious commission was her last work, The Risen Christ, for Liverpool Cathedral, unveiled by her son on Easter Sunday, 11 April 1993, a week before her death. In 1953 she won the student prize in the Unknown Political Prisoner sculpture competition and taught at Chelsea School of Art from 1953 to 1961, at St Martin's School of Art from 1954 to 1962, and visiting instructor at the Royal College of Art from 1965 to 1967. Her first solo show was at St George's Gallery, London in 1955 and first overseas at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York in 1959. Frink married at the church of Notre Dame de France, Leicester Place, London in September 1955, architect Michel Jammet, who died in 1972, and their only child, Lin, was born at St Stephen's Hospital, London on 11 May 1958. Frink divorced Michel Jammet in 1963 and in the Spring of the following year, at Wandsworth register office, she married Edward Pool, whose family had a butchery business in Smithfield. In 1967 they sold their Chelsea home and moved to a group of abandoned farm buildings, Le Village, in the foothills of the Cévennes, near Nîmes, France. In June 1973 Frink was divorced from Pool and returned to live and work in Britain, where she moved into a large apartment at Buckingham Gate, London. In December 1974, Frink married in London, Alexander Csaky, a Hungarian count and an insurance broker. In 1976, when the lease on her Buckingham Gate studio expired, they bought Woolland House, Woolland, near Blandford Forum, Dorset, a large converted stable building with extensive gardens. In 1979 she had a studio built near the house and there made a life-size horse commissioned by the Earl of March for Goodwood racecourse. Frink became a member of the establishment and appointed CBE in 1969 and made a Dame of the British Empire in 1982 and became a Companion of Honour in 1992. A trustee of the British Museum in 1975, a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission in 1976, and Elected a Royal Academician on 1 March 1977. She died of cancer at Woolland House on 18 April 1993, two months after Alexander Csaky following a stroke. In Little Thurlow church, a small model inscribed 'St Edmund by Dame Elisabeth Frink RA, in memory of her father, Brigadier Herbert Ralph Cuyler Frink DSO, 26 Aug. 1899-2 March 1974'. Edwin Mullins 'The Art of Elisabeth Frink'(1972).

Works by This Painter