'I always try to explain that I haven't done a great many animals - that I'm not in fact an animal sculptor... The animals I make are far more what I feel about them than what they are in real life. I'm imprecise about the muscles and the blood vessels, which is what a lot of academic sculptors care about. I'm much more interested in the spirit of the animal. I get into the inside of the animal, and the outside takes care of itself' (Elisabeth Frink, quoted in Edward Lucie-Smith and Elisabeth Frink, Frink a Portrait, London, 1994, pp. 121-23).
Throughout her life Elisabeth Frink's deep knowledge and affection for animals and nature played an important role in her artistic production. Brought up in the English countryside, she learned to ride at the age of four and she was during the war an avid sportswoman, shooting pigeons and hares to supplement her family's rations. Later in her life she kept dogs and horses at her home in Dorset, and continued to ride both as a physical outlet and for the contact it provided her with the local wildlife.
Frink dabbled in the production of horses early in her career (Horse and Rider was executed in 1950 and two versions of Horse's Head were executed in 1954 and 1963), but the true inspiration for her horse sculptures came when the artist moved in 1967 to Cevennes, France. She and her second husband had purchased a vineyard there in 1964 and following the move she was able to observe the wild horses of the Camargue. Upon her return to England in 1973, Frink continued to develop the theme, producing horse and rider figures, as well as several variations of horses individually.
Based on a compilation of her individual experiences of the animal, Frink's renderings of horses were executed from memory and were not drawn from nature, nor worked from sketches drawn from nature. 'Once I've seen an animal I have a vision of it in my mind, because I do have a very photographic memory. When I saw the water-buffalo, which I afterwards did for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, I looked at them for a very long time-enough to get them into my retina, recorded. I can remember faces in the same way, minutely... I think I look at things very specifically. And I look at animals in very much that way and record them for myself.' (Ibid, p.121)
As Frink's comments above illuminate, her sculptures and drawings of horses are not 'horse-portraits', in the sense that they do not attempt to depict an individual animal that may have personal or cultural relevance. In this capacity, Frink diverges from much of the established history of animalier. Her works conjure up and evoke the characteristic elements of the creature, but often through the exposure of those elements of most importance to her. The present work in particular taps into the horse's sense of freedom and playfulness, in contrast to the perhaps more typical connotations of strength and speed, and it is in this highly individual rendering that Frink's brilliance lies.
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