Elisabeth Frink: Protomartyr

Conflict and oppression, alongside compassion, faith and spiritual strength are common themes in the work of Elisabeth Frink (1930-93). The horrors of the Second World War had a lasting impact on Frink and her artistic practice. She became a supporter of Amnesty International, and many of her sculptures and prints depict political prisoners.


Protomartyr is a life-size figure cast in bronze, with a brown and green patina. The tilted head and closed eyes of the sculpture hint at vulnerability and suffering. This sculpture depicts the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen, who provided food and aid to poor members of his community in Jerusalem. His teachings about Christianity were considered blasphemy, for which he was sentenced to death. Frink’s sculpture has a peaceful presence, despite the tragedy of Saint Stephen’s story.

Frink modelled her works using plaster, starting with metal rods or wire to provide structure. Once the plaster dried, she would carve into it using chisels, files and an axe, before casting the work in bronze. Through this process she tried to capture inner and outer states of being.

Frink was a leading figure in British sculpture during the second half of the twentieth century. She made sculpture based on animal and human forms, including many male figures. Her works explore humanity and the world we inhabit.

Courtesy of a private collection.