The Portrait of a Woman, oil on paper, 71 x 55.1 cm by Eva Frankfurther (1930-59)
Influenced by artists as diverse as Rembrandt, Käthe Kollwitz and Picasso, Eva Frankfurther specialized in sensitive character studies. Portrait of a Woman, one of a number of works centred on female figures, reveals her ability to capture feeling and pathos (without sentiment). Typically, employing a subtle palette, her subjects often appear unanchored by their surroundings.
Eva Frankfurther was born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1930. Following the rise of Nazism she immigrated to London at the age of nine with her family. Later, she studied under Bateson Mason at St Martin’s School of Art (1946–51), where her fellow artists included Sheila Fell, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. During her summer holidays, Frankfurther travelled and worked in the USA (1948-50).
After graduating, because of her ‘great need to be independent and live her life in her own way and by her own ideals’, she moved to Whitechapel in the East End. By day she painted and in the evenings earned her living as a counter-hand at the famous Lyons Corner House Tea Rooms in Piccadilly (1951-56). From 1956-57 she became a shift worker in the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery in east London. During this period Frankfurther painted pioneering studies of London’s post-war multi-cultural communities, often capturing the weariness and resignation of her fellow workers with empathy, dignity and sometimes humour.
Frankfurther preferred to exhibit outside the mainstream, however her work was included in exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and Bethnal Green Museum (1952–7), and posthumously, in Kunst im Exil in Großbrittanien 1933-45 (Berlin, Oberhausen, Vienna, London, 1986), Emigré Artists (John Denham Gallery, 1987) and Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain, c. 1933-1945 (Ben Uri, 2009). Her solo exhibitions include Ben Uri (1962), Clare Hall, Cambridge (1979) and Boundary Gallery, London (2001).
Her work will be explored within the context of her peers in a new exhibition at Ben Uri in November 2014, Refiguring the 50s: Joan Eardley, Sheila Fell, Eva Frankfurther, Josef Herman and L S Lowry.
Literature: Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain, c. 1933-1945 (exhibition catalogue: Ben Uri, 2009); Eva Frankfurther 1930-1959 (exhibition catalogue: Boundary Gallery, 2001).