Birdman, a life-size sculpture by acclaimed artist Elisabeth Frink (1930 - 1993) has gone on display at Leeds Art Gallery. Valued at £250,000, the unique plaster maquette was given to Leeds through the Art Fund
by the Frink Estate and Beaux Arts London.
This is the first sculpture by Elisabeth Frink to be part of Leeds permanent collection, which boasts works by some of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century. The acquisition of such an important piece by Frink, one of Britains best loved 20th century artists, is therefore a major coup for the Gallery.
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.
The work represents a half man, half bird figure and is 190cm tall.
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. Throughout her artistic career, Frink was fascinated by the male form.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: "Birdman is an utterly captivating work which embodies some of Elisabeth Frinks central ideas and were delighted that Leeds first seminal work by her is now on public display."
Sophie Raikes, Curator of the Leeds Sculpture Collection, said: "Leeds Art Gallery has one of the largest collections of 20th century British sculpture in the country. However, it has always been our regret that it does not include a sculpture by Frink. The acquisition of Birdman finally allows us to represent her work at its very best."
Lin Jammet, Elisabeth Frinks son and manager of her estate, said: "It was very important to us all to find a good home for the Birdman plaster, somewhere it would be seen by the public rather than just stuck in a store awaiting display. With its embryonic wings the Birdman is the epitome of the way she saw man, as capable of great heroism like her soldier father whom she worshipped - but also hugely vulnerable."