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Dame Elisabeth Frink CH DBE RA (British, 1930-1993)
original cover design for Mai Zetterling's book. The Bird of Passage, 1976
pencil on paper, with hand-drawn titling by the artist
40.3 x 26.5 cm. (sheet)
Condition: light brown scattered glue residue marks in the lower quarter of the sheet (across title, not visible when framed and mounted) and further old glue residue marks and the remains of paper hinges to the reverse, as a result of an earlier hinge mount.
A fine, hitherto unrecorded drawing by Elisabeth Frink, this work is the original design for the dust-jacket of Mai Zetterling's novel Bird of Passage, published by Jonathan Cape in 1976.
The composition depicts a female nude lying in the sinuous folds of hills or dunes, with the horizon of the sea behind her; the water cupped between the flank of a hill and her breast. Frink captures the sleeping woman with a wonderfully assured and pared-down line. The rhythm of the landscape is echoed in the long tresses of her hair that flows down over her shoulder, arm and abdomen, forming a soft, living blanket that binds her with the landscape. A gull hovers above the woman and Frink captures this graceful bird in a much more naturalistic way than the woman below: here, she uses shading to create modelling, volume and depth.This drawing relates to a number of other works from the mid- and late nineteen-seventies, particularly other important cover designs.
One closely-related drawing is the design for "Oxford Poetry Now", volume 3, 1977 (the year after the present work), which features a strikingly similar woman seated among the rocks of a seashore. The cover design for "Bird of Passage" evokes both movement and stillness, a theme at the very heart of the novel. This powerful drawing alludes perhaps to Greek myth and legend, particularly that of Prometheus who was bound to a rock, an eagle circling overhead and swooping down each day to attack his body. Here, however, Frink renders the relationship between man and the natural world as one of harmony and stillness.
Accompanying this drawing is a first edition of "Bird of Passage", inscribed by the author.
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