Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF DAME ELISABETH FRINK
Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993)

Desert Quartet IV

Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993)
Desert Quartet IV
signed and numbered 'Frink/A/C' (on the back of the right shoulder)
bronze with a black patina
50 in. (127 cm.) high
Conceived in 1989 and cast in an edition of 6, plus 1 artist's cast.
Exhibition catalogue, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture, Drawings, Etchings, Glasgow, Compass Gallery, 1990, n.p., another cast illustrated.
E. Lucie-Smith, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture since 1984 and Drawings, London, 1994, pp. 66-69, 188, another cast illustrated.
S. Gardiner, Frink: The Official Biography of Elisabeth Frink, London, 1998, pp. 266-267.
Exhibition catalogue, Frink: Sculpture and Drawings, London, Beaux Arts, 2002, p. 24, another cast illustrated.
A. Ratuszniak (ed.), Elisabeth Frink: Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture 1947-93, London, 2013, pp. 16-17, 183, 193, no. FCR381, another cast illustrated.
West Bretton, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Elisabeth Frink: Open Air Retrospective, July - November 1983, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Glasgow, Compass Gallery, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture, Drawings, Etchings, August 1990, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Washington, D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts, Elisabeth Frink: Sculpture and Drawings 1950-1990, 1990, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Salisbury, Cathedral and Close, Elisabeth Frink: A Certain Unexpectedness, May – June 1997, no. 82, another cast exhibited.
London, Canary Warf ltd., The Shape of the Century: 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain, September – October 1999 catalogue not traced.
London, Beaux Arts, Frink: Sculptures and Drawings, May – June 2002, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
London, Beaux Arts, Frink, October – November 2011, exhibition not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Sturminster Newton, The Exchange, 2008 - 2019, on long-term loan.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This lot has been imported from outside the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Customs Duty (as applicable) will be added to the hammer price and Import VAT at 20% will be charged on the Duty inclusive hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer''s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Please see Conditions of Sale.
Sale room notice
Please note that this work was not exhibited in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park retrospective in 1983, as stated in the printed catalogue.

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William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay

‘Heads have always been very important to me as vehicles for sculpture. A head is infinitely variable. It’s complicated and it’s very emotional. Everyone’s emotions are in their faces. It’s not surprising that there are sculptures of massive heads going way back, or that lots of other artists other than myself have found the subject fascinating’
- E. Frink.

Frink worked through the aftermath of war. Her art charts a progression from fear, aggression and stoicism to a troubled peace that always appears to teeter on the edge of Romanticism. Frink was nothing if not ambitious with her art. She referred to herself solely as a workman, not an artist: her art was a job, and a hard one, which required the utmost concentration. Her experience of war, and of man’s brutality, would haunt and inspire in equal measures throughout her life, consistently appearing, if in different mutations, in each of her works.

The motif of the head was crucial throughout Frink’s career, spanning from 1959 to the end of the 1980s. From the semi-abstract heads of 1959, the Dormant Head and the Fish Head of 1961, the Soldier’s Head series of the mid 1960s and the Tribute Heads of 1975-76; these culminate in the monumental heads of Desert Quartet 1984.

In Desert Quartet, 1984 (so called because the inspiration for them came from a visit to the Tunisian Desert), Frink sculpts four near identical monolithic bronze heads, each well over 4 feet tall. It is the fourth of this series, Desert Quartet IV, that appears here. The head emanates a sense of stoicism, with large, staring eyes, a perfectly symmetrical, sprawling nose, and a flat, emotionless mouth that spans the bottom half of the head’s face.

Desert Quartet IV’s surface draws attention to the artist’s artistic process. The work’s rough texture is reminiscent of sculptures torn from the ground, weathered with age, as if one has stumbled across a forgotten relic from a lost past. This almost ancient appearance, along with the work’s monumental size, has encouraged art historians to draw parallels between the heads of Desert Quartet and late antique representations of Roman emperors. The famous bronze portrait of Emperor Constantine in the Museo dei Conservatori, Rome, just over six feet tall, is often used as a direct comparison. Like Frink’s heads, the emperor’s likeness has enormous eyes, which radiate strength and authority. The pursed lips, slightly furrowed brow and distinguished nose, whilst idealised, are intended to represent an identifiable, powerful and very specific individual. This serves as a stark comparison to the purely symbolic representation of Desert Quartet heads. Frink’s heads are reductive, almost abstracted. Whilst this comparison can be understood, as the similarities certainly exist, the differences outweigh the similarities. The heads are simplified icons of masculinity – mere symbols, not individuals.

It is the fusion of a uniquely archaic sense of aesthetic with Frink’s advanced, contemporary handling of form that give works, such as the present lot, the overpowering aura for which the artist is justifiably renowned. Three major documentaries were made about the artist: the first in 1960 for the BBC’s Monitor arts programme; the second, for Omnibus in 1983, written by the curator of Frink’s Royal Academy show and the last, a tribute by the critic Bryan Robertson for the South Bank Show in 1993, which included footage taken during her final months. All show Frink briefly relaxing, at play, and catch her infectious smile. But mostly they show her at work, in her studio. There her expression is very different: she is serious, creative and terrifying. Her talent and skill pour out of her with every swift cut, chisel and stroke of her chosen medium. Frink homed-in on this medium, as she did her key subject matter, very early on in her career. She modelled with wet plaster of Paris, liquid or soaking through strips of cloth, bulked with card and small pieces of wood, flung onto an armature made of metal rods, and chicken wire. She worked swiftly, because the plaster set quickly. She chiseled and shaped the mass, chipping away forms until the sculpture as a whole was ready to be cast in bronze. The process was fascinating, terrifying and incredible. The end result, completely and utterly unique.

Frink sculpted men almost without exception. For her, men represented strength, power, war but also incredible vulnerability. She commented that ‘I’ve nothing against women. I just don’t like their bodies… l enjoy looking at the male body and this has given me… the impetus and energy for a purely sensuous approach to sculptured form’. (E. Frink quoted in A. Ratuszniak (ed.), Elisabeth Frink, Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture 1947-93).

Desert Quartet IV’s surface has small textured pits, facets carefully cut into the plaster that make the huge form appear to shimmer. The combined impact of this mesmerising texture, the complete symmetry and the monumental size is a sense of the heroic, of the non-human, and consequently, the transcendental. Just as the Greek and Romans did with their representations of gods and goddesses, Frink deliberately endows her Desert Quartet with a harmony and regularity which put it outside the sphere of the human.
The eyes of Desert Quartet IV stare directly out at the viewer, as if ‘our heads were somehow transparent’ (E. Frink quoted in A. Ratuszniak (ed.), Frink, Catalogue Raisonee of Sculpture 1947-93. p. 9). The eyes seem at once soulless, yet aware - as if they have an 'awareness' of their own transience', adding tot he sensation that these heads are tose of an otherworldy, perhaps even God-like being.

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