August 23, 1908|
|Died||December 18, 2008
|Occupation||Artist and sculptor|
Background and Education
Hannah Frank’s Jewish parents both originated in Russia. Charles Fraiker, her father, came from Vilkomir in the Russian Pale of Settlement. After studying engineering at Leitz in Frankfurt, he immigrated to Scotland in 1905, and changed his name to Frank. Hannah’s mother was also born in Russia, as Miriam Lipctz. Having immigrated to Scotland, her family settled first in Edinburgh and then in Glasgow, where her parents ran a shop in Gorbals selling kosher oil.
23 August 1908 was an auspicious day for the Franks. That day, Charles Frank opened a camera shop in the Saltmarket in Glasgow and the same day their eldest child, Hannah, was born. She was later joined by three younger brothers. Hannah records in her childhood diary that they fought a lot, bullied her and tore her drawings. The Franks lived in Glasgow’s Gorbals district, where there was a strong Jewish immigrant community, first in Abbotsford Road and later in South Portland Street. When Hannah was 13, the Franks moved to 72 Dixon Avenue, in Crosshill.
Hannah attended Abbotsford Road Primary School followed by Strathbungo School and then Albert Road Academy. She obtained her Intermediate Certificate in 1924 (with subject passes in English, Maths, Latin, French, Science and Drawing). Her Higher Certificate followed in 1926 (English Literature and History, Latin, French and Art).
Hannah was a student at the University of Glasgow in 1926-27, 1928–29 and 1929–30, taking courses in Latin, English, French, Moral Philosophy and Botany, living at home during her periods of study. In the session 1927-28 she attended Skerry’s College, studying German, where she was assessed as ‘having a rare talent for languages’. Although she had to negotiate several re-sits, she graduated Master of Arts on 8 November 1930. Her formal essays, notebooks and examination scripts can be viewed in the University Archives.
While at the University, she participated in Glasgow University Jewish Society rambles and in its Zionist Branch meetings and studies. She contributed poems and illustrations to the Glasgow University Magazine. Its index for May 1929 reveals ‘Al Aaraaf’ to be her pen name. The name was taken from a poem, by Edgar Alan Poe, about a star named by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe which ‘…. shone as bright as Jupiter and Venus for a few nights and was never seen again.’
The poetry that she contributed to GUM included:
Volume 38 p 261 Faery p 268 Slow They Glide p 323 Unkind
Volume 40 p 41 O Night (also illustrated) p 47 Out of the Night a Shadow Passed (also illustrated)
Her illustrations, which can be viewed on the University of Glasgow Archives website, are listed below. The links are: http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/exhibitions/hannahfrank/ http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/exhibitions/hannahfrank/photogallery1/ http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/exhibitions/hannahfrank/photogallery2/ http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/exhibitions/hannahfrank/photogallery3/
Volume 38 p 212 Scorcery p 315 Vana Spes p 354 Somnia
Volume 41 Cover Illustration p 15 Red Flowers p 41 On Whom the Pale Moon Gleams p 138 Daydream p 201 Night p 343 Vanity
Cover for Ygorra 1929 O Charity, thou meek-eyed daughter of the skies
By 1929, the editor of GUM, Gilbert Highet, had moved to Oxford and had become involved with The University News, in which he unsuccessfully attempted to have published two of Hannah’s illustrations, Red Flowers and Sorcery. The former was deemed to be of such high quality as to command a price that the University News could not afford. Highet himself bought Sorcery for 25/- and had it framed, remarking in correspondence with Hannah, that he thought this drawing ‘underpriced’. Somnia and Vana Spes were also enthusiastically received, but not published as the magazine, intended as a commercial venture, ran into publishing problems.
Hannah continued to illustrate the GUM after graduating.
Volume 42 No 5 17 Dec 30 Dusty Answer No 7 11 Feb 31 In thoughts from the visions of the night
Volume 43 No 12 11 May 32 Thy brother Death came...
Volume 44 No 6 11 Jan 33 Within the Room the Women come and go Talking Michaelangelo
Volume 45 No 5 13 Dec 33 Au moins, semons des fleurs (caption used by GUM) No 7 1 Feb 34 Adam and Eve
Volume 46 No 5 Christmas 34 I am thy soul, Nikoptis (caption used by GUM) No 6 16 Jan 35 In Death’s other kingdom
After University, Hannah qualified as a teacher at Jordanhill Teacher Training College. She also undertook part time study at the Glasgow School of Art for several years, taking the General Course in sessions 27/28 and 28/29, and courses in Design (29/30) and Drawing and Painting (31/32 and 32/33). Her teachers in the latter included Dugdale, Keppie, Richmond, Gauld, Whitelaw Hamilton, Anningbell, Forrester Wilson and Gray. She may also have taken Calligraphy. Hannah won the GSA evening class prize in 1929 for Sorcery (the drawing that was bought by the former editor of GUM) and the James McBey prize for wood engraving in 1934. She attended further courses at the GSA in 35/36, 37/39 and 43/66.
In 1939, Hannah married Lionel Levy. Her works during the years of the World War II were reflective of the mood of the time, as a Jew, and with brothers in the Army these years were long and dark, and there were many illustrations of grim, gaunt figures, reflecting the plight of the refugees. It was also during this period that Hannah began clay modeling at the Glasgow School of Art under Paul Zunterstein and Benno Schotz who encouraged her work, and sculpture became her main passion.
Although she had works published in the Glasgow University Magazine which brought with it involvement with the wider university community, during her later career, Hannah's work was to reach a wide audience including many in Glasgow's Jewish community where she received many appeals to donate art to help with fundraising appeals. This involvement can be characterised by focusing on the years between 1948 and 1969, in which Hannah either donated or lent her artwork for charitable and fundraising purposes for Jewish organisations. Throughout her career, Hannah assisted in any areas possible to help various organisations raise money, whether this was designing brochures or lending her work to help fundraise. (http://www.hannahfrank.org.uk/pages/about_hannah.htm). Hannah and her husband Lionel Levy were also members of the Glasgow committee of the Friends of the Hebrew University. This connection with the Jewish community would be something that would span out over most of Hannah’s career and later life. Below are five examples ranging between the years 1948 and 1985 which convey Hannah’s enthusiastic approach to assisting Jewish organisations. In 1948, Hannah designed a brochure cover for the Glasgow Board for Jewish Education, which was the main centre for Jewish education in Glasgow at the time. This brochure design coincided with the 50th Jubilee of the Talmud Torah (Letter 2/3/7, from Mr L. Friedlander to Mrs L. Levy, 19/09/1948, Hannah Frank & Lionel Levy Collection, Scottish Jewish Archives Centre). In 1966, Hannah donated an art piece to the Rosa Wollstein group which was to be used in an art draw in May of that year. The Rosal Wollstein was a women-run Glasgow branch that belonged to the Women’s International Zionist Organisation, whose aim was to raise money for projects such as Israeli orphanages (Letter 2/3/9, from Mrs D. N. Links to Mrs L. Levy, 26/03/1966, Hannah Frank & Lionel Levy Collection, Scottish Jewish Archives Centre). In 1967, Hannah gave a sculpture to the Joint Israel Appeal which was collecting for an Israel emergency fund. The organisation held a Fine Art auction to which Hannah donated. Ethel Collins and Louis Ferrar of the appeal wrote to Hannah and gave expansive thanks for her donation (Letter 2/3/11, from Ms Ethel Collins & Mr Louis Ferrar, 28/11/1967, Hannah Frank & Lionel Levy Collection, Scottish Jewish Archives Centre). In 1969, Hannah donated a signed print to the Glasgow Women’s Zionist Organisation’s Jewish Art Group, which was auctioned to presumably raise money (Letter 2/3/28, from Mrs J. Lewis to Mrs L. Levy, 14/12/1969, Hannah Frank & Lionel Levy Collection, Scottish Jewish Archives Centre). As mentioned above, Hannah and her husband Lionel were members of the Glasgow group of the Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1985, Hannah donated a piece to the group that would be placed into a raffle, the raffle itself raised around £700 (Letter 2/3/106, 3/02/1985, Hannah Frank & Lionel Levy Collection, Scottish Jewish Archives Centre). From these examples, we can see that Hannah was extensively involved with the Jewish community over a number of years. Her generosity and selflessness in regards to donating or lending her work is a characteristic that people will remember her by. It is clear that the Jewish community was close to her heart and her career, her involvement was very supportive for many Jewish organisations in Glasgow.
In the latter half of Hannah Frank’s life her artistic practice lay in the production of sculpture (with the latest drawings dated 1952) following her enrolment in sculpture classes at the Glasgow School of Art. The small scale plaster, terra cotta and bronze sculptures are mainly figure studies. Many of these sculptures focus on the form of women, a subject she found more interesting to work with, which is evident in her drawings too. Frank’s style was influenced by contemporaries such as Henry Moore as well as her teachers at the Glasgow School of Art (Benno Schotz and Paul Zunterstein) but her personal style is undoubtedly distinct with elongated limbs and elegant shaping, with her roots in the Scottish Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movement. Sydney Goodsir Smith, the Scottish poet, artist and novelist, reviewed Frank’s RSA entry in 1965 and praised her voluptuous ‘Reclining Woman’ for being ‘classical in her ease of pose and perfect calm…a lovely wee thing’ . Following an exhibition in 1969 at Arthur’s (her brother) premises in Forrest Road, prints began to be made to satisfy the demand and interest in her work. In 1983 a retrospective exhibition took place in Glasgow, which was soon followed by the first edition of ‘Hannah Frank, Drawings and Sculptures’ in 1988, published by Arthur.
The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre (http://www.sjac.org.uk/) holds a large collection of Hannah Frank’s diaries and correspondences with various institutions. Her university notebooks and some correspondence is also held at the University of Glasgow’s Archives (http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives). As well as being generous with her work, having donated many pieces to Jewish organisations, she also gifted two works on paper and one sculpture to Glasgow University’s Hunterian Art Gallery From 25 April – 5 June 2004 the Lancaster City Museum and Art Gallery hosted the first show of the successful touring exhibition: Hannah Frank: A Glasgow Artist. This toured for five years in the run up to Hannah Frank’s 100th Birthday, which coincided with the exhibition's final destination, her alma mater, the University of Glasgow. As part of this touring exhibition, Frank had her first solo exhibition in London at Ivy House, Golders Green, home to the London Jewish Cultural Centre. At the end of the London show Hannah Frank presented her 1943 drawing ‘Sun’ to the Ben Uri London Jewish Museum of Art. Although she was not able to be there, due to travelling difficulties at the age of 98, she said that she was ‘glad that people in London are becoming as enthusiastic about my work as they are in Scotland’. She was, however, present at the opening of the final exhibition of the tour, at the University of Glasgow Chapel, where she was given a standing ovation by the 150 guests present. Her art was beginning to spread further afield, much to the credit of her niece - Fiona Frank- who is very much responsible for sharing her aunt’s work with a wider audience (the touring exhibition also went to Boston, Philadelphia and Connecticut). The University of Glasgow recognised Hannah Frank’s talent and “international distinction” and the day before her death (too late for her to know) a letter had been sent, offering her an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. Hannah Frank’s legacy lives on through her art, which proves to be an endless joy for her admirers, with exhibitions in Glasgow in 2011 and 2012, in two locations in Shetland in 2012 and 2013, an exhibition in Dalbeattie in 2013, and an exhibition planned in Ayr in 2014.
Hannah Frank's Art
Hannah Frank's drawings imply a melancholic interpretation, not least created by the black and white contrast. The influences of artists such as the McDonald sisters, Jessie King, Aubrey Beardsley, Harry Clark and John Duncan can be seen in her work. However, her work maintains her own, very distinctive style. Her drawings seem very vibrant through the extreme colour contrast and clear but simple lines. Looking at the drawings more carefully, they differ enormously: some are very melancholic and mystic, others very bright and optimistic and others again very calm. Most of her drawings date from between 1925 and 1952. While developing her drawing techniques and skills the shift of the content went on portraying females. According to an interview she gave whilst living in West Acres care home she claimed that women are simply more aesthetic and nicer to draw and, as an artist, she was more interested in capturing this.
Her drawings could be categorised in two sections according to a change in style. The first section would be from 1925 till 1934. By looking at e.g.”Isabella or the Pot of Basil” (1928) one discovers a very intense focus on details. The black and white contrast and the horizontal and vertical lines create a dynamic atmosphere and dramatize the scene with very simple methods. The details, such as the skull in the vase, the basil itself or the ornaments surrounding the drawing are typical for this period of her drawings. Most of her drawings within this period are based on poetic interpretation; some of the poems she wrote and published herself.
“What a find! Hannah captures an essence with such economy of line. They are evidence of her drawing skill and technical facility and demonstrate the draftsman/womanship underpinning the black and white line drawings” Artist Ann Marie Foster.
The next period is from roughly 1939 until 1952. There is a very noticeable shift towards a brighter composition; white is the dominating colour. The figures are mainly women and Frank remarkably drew numerous face close-ups. The style is much simpler and she drifts away from trying to draw realistic features, a trend typical of the art nouveau movement. Details in her drawings are of natural origin such as flowers, trees, animals and the sun/moon. Good examples are “Sun” (1943), “Spring Frieze” (1945) or several of her “Girl at the Window” (1945, 1946, 1952) drawings.
In 1952 she started working on sculptures, originally to improve her anatomy skills for her drawings. However, she never returned to drawing but remained working on sculptures for almost the rest of her life till 1998, aged 90. She became widely recognized as her sculptures were exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute and the Royal Academy, in London. One example is “Head” (Bobby Rosenberg, 1952); this was only her second sculpture, her cousin Bobby the model. He recalls that it took her weeks to finish. Although sculptures mark a very different artistic branch from drawings even here you can find a very simplistic style combined with a striking aliveness. As in her drawings, the vast majority of her sculptures are female figures. Although her sculptures of heads seem detailed, they differ from works forming a whole human body where the figures remain faceless; an indicator of her focus on body anatomy. One of her most well known figures, “Reclining Woman” (1963) won her much attention. Although her first intention was to learn anatomic details, her work shifts again from realistic portrayals to experiments with surreal proportions: examples are another drawing entitled “Reclining Woman” (1964) and “Untitled” (1968).
“ I did sculpture classes because I didn't know anatomy. I thought it would be good for my drawing – then sculpture took over. I was very fortunate to have Benno Schotz as a mentor”
While at the Glasgow School of Art, she won the James McBey Prize for wood engraving. Although some wood engravings, family portraits and sketches survive, her main early artistic focus was on her black and white drawings and, later, on her sculpture.
Hannah latterly lived in a care home near Glasgow. She is buried in Cathcart Cemetery, Giffnock, Glasgow.
- Glasgow Style
- Margaret MacDonald
- Aubrey Beardsley
- Jessie M King
- James McBey Prize
- Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts
- Royal Scottish Academy
- Hannah Frank web site
- The Jewish Community Online – Hannah Frank: The artist who ﬁnally won recognition at 100
- Fiona Frank and Judith Coyle (2008). Hannah Frank: Footsteps on the Sands of Time: a 100th birthday gallimaufry. Glasgow: SJAC and Kennedy & Boyd.
- "University of Glasgow Archives". Retrieved 01/03/2014.
- "University of Glasgow Archives". Retrieved 01/02/2014.
- Fiona Frank and Judith Coyle (2008). Hannah Frank: Footsteps on the Sands of Time: a 100th gallimaufry. Glasgow: SJAC and Kennedy & Boyd.
- Fiona Frank and Judith Coyle (2008). Hannah Frank: Footsteps on the Sands of Time: a 100th birthday gallimaufry. Glasgow: SJAC and Kennedy & Boyd.
- "Glasgow School of Art Archives". Retrieved 01/03/2014.
- "Hannah Frank: A Glasgow Artist". Retrieved 01/03/2014.
- "Press Release: Veteran Jewish Artist Donates ‘Sun’ to Ben Uri Gallery". Retrieved 01/03/2014.
- Published 29/12/08, The Scotsman. "Hannah Frank: artist and sculptor".
- Fiona Frank and Judith Coyle (2008). Hannah Frank: Footsteps on the Sands of Time: a 100th birthday gallimaufry. Glasgow: SJAC and Kennedy & Boyd. p. 2.
- Frank, Fiona (2004). Hannah Frank: A Glasgow Artist. Glasgow: Scottish Jewish Archives Centre. p. 130.
- Frank, Fiona (2004). Hannah Frank: A Glasgow Artist. Glasgow: Scottish Jewish Archives Centre. p. 112.
- Levin, Janet (Winter 2003). "Critical Acclaim about Hannah Frank: Article from Jewish Renaissance magazine". Hannah Frank: A Glasgow Artist 1908- 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
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