COMING HOME: ART OF HANNAH FRANK RETURNS TO THE RGIIt’s the exhibition that Miriam Margolyes didn’t want to miss, but when Spring Frieze: Hannah Frank – 75 Years a Glasgow Artist, opens at the RGI Kelly Gallery on Thursday 8 March, the actress will be working in Australia, and instead will send a video message of support. Miriam Margolyes – Exhibition
Miriam is one of countless admirers of Hannah Frank’s work and attended the artist’s 100th birthday lunch in August 2008. This new exhibition is particularly significant as it marks the artist’s return to the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in her native city.
Hannah was a true daughter of Glasgow as her father, Charles Frank, opened his camera shop in Saltmarket on 23 August 1908, the day of Hannah’s birth. The shop was a success and the family prospered.
As Hannah showed early promise as an artist, family friend and artist John Quinton Pringle, associated with the Glasgow Boys, recommended that Hannah attend evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art, while studying for a career at Glasgow University.
On graduating with an MA in English and Latin in 1930, Hannah continued with evening classes for many decades, producing her trademark black and white drawings from the age of 17 in 1925, and between 1927 and 1932 the GUM, the Glasgow University Magazine, rarely came out without a drawing by ‘Al Aaraaf’, her chosen pen name.
Many of the drawings express a pensive melancholy but after her marriage to Lionel Levy in 1939, they become filled with sunshine and youthful exuberance. Hannah continued to produce drawings until 1952, and also illustrated posters and leaflets for many Glasgow Jewish organisations.
She then turned to sculpture, working with Benno Schotz at the Glasgow School of Art. Apart from the frequent inclusion of her work at the RGI, her drawings and bronzes were also in the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy.
Hannah Frank produced sculpture into her early 90s. In 2002 she and her husband moved to Westacres Care Home in Newton Mearns. Lionel pre-deceased Hannah who died four months after 100th birthday in 2008.
The following year, Hannah became the first person ever to receive a posthumous honorary doctorate from Glasgow University, and was also honoured with a posthumous Lord Provost’s Award from Glasgow City Council for her special contribution to the visual arts through drawing and sculpture.
Hannah enjoyed a long relationship with the RGI, exhibiting at its annual exhibition throughout her lengthy career. This new exhibition which is Hannah’s third solo show with the RGI, features original drawings and sketches, bronze and plaster sculptures and reproduction prints.
The exhibition title stems from Hannah’s 1945 drawing Spring Frieze, and symbolises the rebirth of interest in Hannah Frank’s work over the last decade.
Curator of the RGI Kelly Gallery, Lynne Mackenzie said: “We are delighted to be hosting this exhibition of Hannah’s work and it seems fitting that our gallery is less than a mile away from where she studied at the Glasgow School of Art.
“Hannah was a keen supporter of the RGI and between the years 1930 and 1989 showed over 60 works at our annual exhibition which is the highlight of our year and held in great public affection.”
Hannah’s aim was, in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to ‘leave footprints on the sands of time’, and while she was delighted to have her work celebrated elsewhere, her dream was to be recognised in her ‘native heath’ – Glasgow.
Spring Frieze: Hannah Frank – 75 Years a Glasgow Artist, Royal Glasgow Institute, Kelly Gallery, 118 Douglas Street, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 248 6386. Tuesday – Friday 10.30am – 5pm Saturday 10.30am – 3pm. Sunday – Closed.
Exhibition runs Tuesday 6 March – Saturday 17 March Opening reception Thursday 8 March 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. www.royalglasgowinstitute.org www.hannahfrank.org.uk