The Blue Studio by Annette Ratuszniak

A tall white male plaster figure dominates a black and white photograph. His palms are turned outwards and his head almost touches the ceiling, indistinct within the criss-cross of metal roof struts. Beside him, with arms crossed, the gaunt figure of Elisabeth Frink stares into the lens. She stands in her studio, less than half the height of this Risen Christ, her last major commission, completed at the end of 1992. Just a few months later one of Britain’s foremost 20th century sculptors died of cancer at the age of 63, too soon to see her Risen Christ installed on the front of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool.

This is the last known photograph of Frink in her studio at Woolland in Dorset. Strangely absent from the scene is the usual sculptural debris and equipment that surrounded her as she worked; only the shadowy outlines of four cut-out figures stand at the long window. Resurrection, new life, the inherent dignity of all species preoccupied her thoughts following the diagnosis of cancer.

After her death, a photographer recorded her studio and the home she had shared with her husband Alex since 1977. The studio images reverberate with both presence and absence: plasters, armatures, drawing board, tools, sculpture stands and boxes, chairs, music titles scrawled onto the wall above the sink, all evoke her working world.

Frink was a disciplined artist. She started work early each morning, immersing herself both in the making of sculpture and drawing. She gave attention to thoughts that mattered to her – humanity and our relationship with the world we inhabit.

Her son Lin Jammet eventually sold Woolland. Everything was packed up. Most of the artworks and archive papers were housed in a purpose-built store and made available for exhibitions and educational projects. The studio contents and chattels from the house and grounds remained packed up and stored in a warehouse. Woolland became a home for other lives and slowly the studio fell into disrepair.

In 2017 Lin died of cancer. In his final days he expressed a wish that his mother’s artworks and archive be given to the nation. By the autumn of 2019, his wishes were fulfilled. The art-store and warehouse had been unpacked and assessed. Museums and galleries across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland became beneficiaries of Frink artworks, archive material, original plasters and studio contents. Now, for the first time, there is the opportunity to see the scale and breadth of her work.

Coincidentally in 2019, Messums Wiltshire rescued Frink’s studio from Woolland. In 2020 the studio will be rebuilt as part of an exhibition within its historic Tithe Barn gallery. Many of the original contents will be shown alongside archive photographs of Frink at work.

Frink’s studio will act as a reminder of the significance and relevance of creative making and thinking within all our lives. We will briefly share her world, her belief in new life and new ways of thinking.


by Annette Ratuszniak
Former Curator Elisabeth Frink Estate and Archive October 2019


Image (top): The Frink Studio at Messums West in 2019

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