Dame Elisabeth Frink

In Memoriam I


Not on display

Dame Elisabeth Frink 1930–1993
Object: 1275 × 1100 × 680 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

Since 1953, Frink has produced work full of monumental power and vitality. Her chosen subjects have been elemental and simple: naked men, birds, dogs and horses. She worked as a modeller, rather than a carver, and most of her sculpture was made from plaster. She felt that this material, which can be worked quickly, was one that matched the tempo of her ideas. Frink displayed deep concern for the quality of human life, and her sculpture was a reflection upon this. Her series of large male heads called 'In Memoriam' were made as a tribute to people who have suffered for their beliefs. 'In Memoriam I' with its inward gaze displays a stoic calm and endurance.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03416 In Memoriam I 1981

Bronze 50 1/4 × 43 1/4 × 26 3/4 (1275 × 1100 × 680)
Inscribed ‘Frink 3/6’ on left shoulder
Purchased from Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Lit: Sarah Kent, Elisabeth Frink, Sculpture in Winchester, exhibition catalogue, Great Courtyard, Winchester, 1981, unspecified cast repr. (n.p.); Peter Burman, Father Kenneth Nugent (eds.), Prophecy and Vision, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, 1982, unspecified cast repr. (n.p.); Bryan Robertson, Sarah Kent et al., Elisabeth Frink, Sculpture, Catalogue Raisonné, 1984, no.265, unspecified cast repr. pp.88 in col., 195, cover in col. Also repr: unspecified cast in Arts Review, xxxv, no.14, 22 July 1983, cover in col., unspecified cast, in Elisabeth Frink, Open Air Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, 1983 (n.p.)

Elisabeth Frink made her first series of heads in 1959. In the mid 1960s she began work on series of heads which demonstrated her attitude towards violence. ‘Soldier's Head’ i–iv 1965 and ‘Heads’ 1967 led to ‘Goggled Heads’ 1969, in which the artist's feelings about the Algerian war and the aggression of the Moroccan strongmen are reflected.

Later, in ‘Tribute Heads’ i–iv 1975, Frink turned her attention from aggressors to the victim. These heads are:

a tribute to all people who have died or suffered for their beliefs. These men are heroes in the sense that they are survivors, but they are also victims stripped of everything but their human courage. (Elisabeth Frink in conversation with Sarah Kent, quoted in the catalogue of the exhibition Elisabeth Frink, Sculpture in Winohester, July–September 1981 (n.p.).

‘In Memoriam i’ and ‘In Memoriam ii’ relate very closely to the ‘Tribute’ series in that they are also a tribute to people who have suffered for their beliefs. Man's inhumanity to man is a subject that has concerned the artist since the early 1950s when she made her prize winning maquette for the ‘Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner’ 1953. Both the ‘Tribute’ and the ‘In Memoriam’ heads are a tribute to Amnesty International, whose work Elisabeth Frink has supported over the years. In an interview with Norman Rosenthal in 1985 the artist commented:

My recent heads - the monumental ones - are to do with Amnesty and human rights because they are memorials to people who are suffering for their beliefs (catalogue of Frink retrospective exhibition, Royal Academy, February–March 1985, p.25)

The ‘In Memoriam’ heads represent all victims of state persecution, not individuals; according to the artist they represent the ‘thousands of people who are being tortured today’ (letter to the cataloguer, February 1986).

The profiles of T03416 and T03417 have been thinned down from the thick set jaws of the ‘Goggled’ and ‘Soldier’ heads; unlike the ‘Tribute’ heads their eyes are open, staring ahead. In Elisabeth Frink, Sculpture, Catalogue Raisonné Sarah Kent characterises them as personifying stoic resistance:

Lips are sealed into hard lines of endurance...the blank stare that indicated dumb stupidity [‘Goggled Heads’] now becomes an inward gaze produced by suffering and isolation (p.64).

The artist originally intended the heads to form a pair, but two individual casts of each head have been sold. Individual casts of ‘In Memoriam 1’ are in private collections in Australia and Greece and individual casts of ‘In Memoriam II’ are at Margam Sculpture Park and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The complete edition of six has been cast at the Meridian Bronze company in Peckham, London.

A third head, ‘In Memoriam III’, made in 1983, is related to the earlier two heads and is 55 in. high. It is reproduced in Elisabeth Frink, Sculpture, Catalogue Raisonné, no.284, p.199.

This and the following entry have been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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