Lawrences Auctioneers: Beauty and the Beast

We are a nation with a longstanding fondness for horses and dogs. Such subjects have enjoyed a dependable popularity at auction for many decades. However, the endearing sentimentalism of some Victorian artists who gave farmyard horses an anthropomorphic quality did not enchant Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993). As the daughter of an amateur jockey, she grew up with a workmanlike respect for the animals and her studies of them are stripped of any whimsy. Frink was moved more by the energetic spirit of the animal. The intriguing antipathy between the mastered, saddled mount and its independent energy and caprice enchanted the artist. ‘The horse has done so much for man,’ she commented in 1992. ‘It works for him, carries him into battle and yet it has retained its independence. it can in a flash transform everything by chucking him off.’ For Frink, the horse was a metaphor for the irreconcilable, unknowable animus: in her art, both the biddable and the beastly defined the independence of these mighty animals.

A charming study of a peaceable horse attracted keen bids in our sale in January. The watercolour, 63 x 44cm, had been a gift from the artist to a dear friend upon his 50th birthday in 1991. The recipient’s death brought the work to market and keen bids pushed it to £12,250. The eagerness of the bidding was more of a canter than a trot – and I like to think that Frink would have admired that.

Lawrences are welcoming consignments for their upcoming Spring and Summer sales. Get in touch if you have an item you would like to sell.

South Street, Crewkerne, Somerset TA18 8AB; Telephone: 01460 73041; Email:
1A Woodlands Estate, Westbury, BA13 3QS; Telephone: 01373 822337; Email: