• 20th Century British And Irish auction at Christies

    Sale 7789

    20th Century British And Irish Art

    12 November 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 83

    Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993)

    First man

    Price Realised  

    Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993)
    First man
    signed and numbered 'Frink/3/3' (on the base) and stamped with the foundry mark 'B' (on the base)
    bronze with a dark brown patina
    76 in. (193 cm.) high
    Conceived in 1964.


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    Conceived in 1964, and cast in an edition of three, First man represents a pivotal moment in Frink's work. Her earlier warriors and falling and flying figures seem to be preoccupied with understandable pessimistic post-war concerns while as Sarah Kent notes First man looks forward to a more complex representation of the male figure in her sculpture: 'He [First man] stands naked and bemused, his hands, head and feet not yet fully differentiated, as though the process of development is not yet complete. He is a large, full-bodied man whose embryonic features suggest that he could go either way - his senses dulled into boorishness or heightened into self-awareness. The sculpture is optimistic in its implication that insensitivity, aggression and blinding ambition are not innate masculine characteristics, as Desmond Morris would have us believe, but are qualities encouraged through the process of socialization' (see B. Robertson, op. cit, p. 60).

    Edwin Mullins comments on the present work, 'It is an archetypal Frink standing figure. It looks forward, not back. What is new about First Man is evident if one compares him with the Warriors. Firstly, this is plainly a man, no longer some sort of armour-plated mythological creature. He is a nude man, what is more. The surface, which had once been rough and craggy, often in defiance of anatomy, is now almost smooth, thinned down in the legs and face, rounded out in the belly and chest. Most of all, no longer is he threatening, but monumental. He is a figure of awe, not of menace. He wears that placid dignity that is to become a characteristic of Elisabeth Frink's later work in bronze' (op. cit., intro.).

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    Provenance

    with Beaux Arts, London, 1997.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 3 July 2002, lot 154, where purchased by the present owner.


    Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, Elisabeth Frink, London, Waddington Galleries, 1972, another cast illustrated.
    E. Mullins (intro.), The Art of Elisabeth Frink, London, 1972, pls. 62, 63, another cast illustrated.
    B. Robertson, Elisabeth Frink Sculpture Catalogue Raisonné, Salisbury, 1984, pp. 160-161, no. 113, another cast illustrated.
    Exhibition catalogue, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture and drawings 1952-1984, London, Royal Academy, 1985, p. 23, another cast illustrated.
    E. Lucie-Smith and E. Frink, Frink: a portrait, London, 1994, pp. 68-71, another cast ilustrated.
    S. Gardiner, Frink: The Official Biography of Elisabeth Frink, London, 1998, pp. 132, 174, 186, 194, 222, 223.


    Exhibited

    London, Tate Gallery, British Sculpture in the Sixties, February - April 1965, no. 38, another cast exhibited.
    London, Waddington Galleries, Elisabeth Frink, October - November 1972, another cast exhibited.
    London, Royal Academy, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture and drawings 1952-1984, February - March 1985, no. 32, another cast exhibited.
    Washington, D.C., The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture and Drawings 1950-1990, 1990, another cast exhibited.
    Salisbury, Cathedral and Close, Elisabeth Frink: sculptures, graphic works, textiles, May - June 1997, no. 24, another cast exhibited.