Lancaster connection takes iconic artwork to Brazil

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A chance connection between a Lancaster woman, Fiona Frank, and Brazilian artist Artur Soar, who has exhibited in Morecambe, has led to a new exhibition of signed prints by her aunt, the renowned artist Hannah Frank, in Brazil.

Hannah Frank (1908–2008) was the last link to the Scottish Art Nouveau movement. This exhibition sees Hannah’s black and white prints on show alongside work by Brazilian artist Artur Soar, which came about because Hannah’s niece and champion, Fiona Frank, who lives at a cohousing community at Halton, Lancaster, and was born in Preston, is currently travelling in Brazil.

“I’ve been visiting galleries and talking about my aunt’s art everywhere I go,” said Fiona, who previously worked at Lancaster University.

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Hannah Frank and Artur Soar - um diálogo artístico da Escócia com a Bahia (Hannah Frank and Artur Soar - Scotland Meets Brazil: An Artistic Conversation) opened on 21 May at the prestigious Hansen Bahia Foundation in Cachoeira and runs until 16 July.

Fiona Frank of Lancaster, niece of artist Hannah Frank.Fiona Frank of Lancaster, niece of artist Hannah Frank.
Fiona Frank of Lancaster, niece of artist Hannah Frank.

Fiona added: “We at Hannah Frank Art are delighted at this collaborative exhibition featuring my aunt’s work and that of Artur Soar who graduated from the School of Fine Arts at the Federal University of Bahia. Cachoeira, which is around two hours from Salvador, was a centre of the battle for independence in Brazil and receives thousands of visitors at its June festivals so we’re anticipating lots of interest in this exhibition. The Hansen Bahia Foundation was set up to celebrate the power of art in healing.”

A set of engravings by Artur went on show in at the Good Things Collective, Morecambe, as part of a festival about the Amazon that Fiona organised in 2022. The connection continued and Artur came to North Lancashire on an artistic residency in 2023. He spent ten days in Fiona’s home at Halton Mill while she was travelling to Brazil.

Artur said: “I was surrounded by Hannah Frank’s drawings and sculptures. I found a photo of the artist, then in her nineties, working on one of her last sculptures. Sitting in Fiona’s house, looking out onto the River Lune, I felt a deep connection with the nature and the art. Slowly I began a lino cut. I surrounded the frame with motifs that Hannah used – the moon, stars, flowers and grasses. I took one of the six women from ‘Garden’ (1932) and drew her supporting a new portrait of Hannah.”

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“I put our initials, HF and AS, at the bottom, and at the top a Hanukiah. Fiona later said that the Hanukiah that I used as a model was one her aunt had kept in her bedroom until she died. The whole piece had Hannah’s spirit as well as her artistic energy running through it.”

Artur Soar's linocut of Hannah Frank, created in Halton.Artur Soar's linocut of Hannah Frank, created in Halton.
Artur Soar's linocut of Hannah Frank, created in Halton.

The Hannah Frank Art team is seeking help with travel and transport costs for this latest exhibition - but in a way which allows supporters to enjoy the art too!

“Sales of my aunt's signed prints will help us directly with the logistics of having set up this exhibition. With this in mind we have a special offer on signed prints. Up to 14 June 2024, fans can choose any three signed prints from the Hannah Frank website for a total of £100 (plus p&p £9.20 in UK). As Hannah died in 2008 there is a finite number of signed prints available,” Fiona explained.

Hannah’s original pen and ink drawing, ‘Oh, That Was a Flight Through the Air! (The Travelling Companion)’, 1928, recently sold at auction for £2600.

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Hannah attended Glasgow University from 1926 to 1930 while simultaneously developing her artistic talent at evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art. She produced her distinctive black and white drawings from 1927 until the early 1950s. In 1952 she turned to sculpture, studying under Benno Schotz at the GSA. Her drawings and sculpture were exhibited for 49 consecutive years at the Royal Glasgow Institute and have appeared at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy.

Garden 1932, Hannah FrankGarden 1932, Hannah Frank
Garden 1932, Hannah Frank

From the early 2000s Fiona Frank made it her mission to help Hannah ‘leave footsteps on the sands of time’, in the words of Longfellow. The result was a huge resurgence in interest in Hannah Frank’s work with exhibitions across the length and breadth of the UK, and in America. A 100th birthday retrospective exhibition took place at Glasgow University Chapel in 2008. The artist herself attended along with several dignitaries.

Hannah died four months later. In 2009 she received two posthumous awards: Glasgow City Council’s Lord Provost’s award for Art, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Glasgow.