During the exhibition of Frink’s studio within the Barn Gallery we received many items and even more stories, from those who knew her at Woolland but also times earlier in her career when she was working in other studios. Towards the end of the exhibition, we received a copy of Life Magazine published 18th October 1963. This was a celebrated edition as it launched for the first time a wave of new British designers to an American audience the first time. Shot by Norman Parkinson on the streets of London they were images that epitomised the iconoclastic optimism of fashion in Sixties Britain. As Parkinson stated that “they are not mad. They are just irreverent, out to shake up traditional British fashion”.
One such image was shot in an artist’s studio in Chelsea, and in the foreground is a drawing on a glass panel which on closer inspection appears to be a preliminary drawing for one of the most celebrated female sculptors of her time Elisabeth Frink. It is in fact her Studio at Fleming Close. In the above photo, Norman Parkinson has signed the copies he sent to Frink.
Frink moved to this Chelsea studio in 1959. She described this as a period when “we were all immensely cheerful, busy getting on with what we wanted to”. If someone wanted to photograph her they would have to contend with her son Lin and the incredible amounts of plaster dust in the air. Something Parkinson did with great skill. Although the image included in Life did not feature Frink, in the negatives loaned to Messums you get a sense of Frink’s alternative character. As can be seen in these negatives Frink only ever wore black when in the studio with her signature helmet hair.
However, this period marks the time just before Frink decided to leave England after the end of her first marriage. In 1965 Frink moved out of the studio in Fleming close and in 1967 she moved to France. Her art was being overshadowed by the importation of American artistic styles such as Pop Art which were at odds with the figurative sculpture Frink created. When she began teaching at St Martins in 1953, she found that drawing, which she regarded as essential training as it taught artists to look and thus see, was no longer popular. She also found when Anthony Caro returned as head of the Sculpture department, bringing with him the abstract innovations of David Smith that drawing from life abandoned. This switch in teaching styles ultimately foreshadowed the change in art education which would precipitate her move to France.
The images below feature are also in the article and we were also so lucky to be shown the original contact sheets which are also below.