The city of Leeds, known for its rich collection of 20th century British sculpture, has acquired its first piece by acclaimed British artist Elisabeth Frink (1930 - 1993) thanks to a major gift.
The life-size plaster maquette, entitled Birdman, has been gifted to Leeds Art Gallery through membership charity the Art Fund
by the Frink Estate and Beaux Arts, London. Leeds Art Gallery represents some of the greatest British sculptors of the 20th century and the addition of a significant Frink sculpture to the collection is major coup. The sculpture has been valued at £250,000.
Elisabeth Frink is widely recognised as one of the UKs most important post-war sculptors, and Birdman is a wonderful illustration of some of the artists key concerns.
Birdman represents a half man, half bird figure. Made in plaster on a steel armature, it is 190cm tall. The male form, along with animals such as dogs, horses and birds, was a major preoccupation for Frink throughout her career. In particular, the artist was renowned for representing both the strength and vulnerability in the male form. With its thin spindly limbs and slight torso, Birdman captures the frail, vulnerable side of man. Although its creation date is uncertain, it is thought to have been made around 1958/9.
It is thought that Frink could have been inspired to create the Birdman motif after reading in Paris-Match the story of the death of a real-life birdman, Léo Valentin, who had fallen to earth wearing wooden wings in an attempt to fly.
Sophie Raikes, Curator of the Leeds Sculpture Collection, said: "It had always been our regret that Leeds Art Gallery did not include a sculpture by Frink herself, who is of course a key figure in this period. The acquisition of Birdman finally allows us to represent her work at its very best."
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: "We thank the Frink Estate and Beaux Arts for choosing to give Birdman through the Art Fund, and we encourage anyone whether a gallerist or a private collector who might be donating a work of art to consider doing so through us. We work hard to ensure that each gift is placed in a public collection that will look after it well and present it to its best advantage."
Lin Jammet, Elisabeth Frinks son and manager of her estate, said: "With its embryonic wings the Birdman is the epitome of the way my mother saw man, as capable of great heroism like her soldier father whom she worshipped - but also hugely vulnerable."