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1921 - 1995
American School

Head Study and Stripes

Oil on paper, signed

12 x 10 ins
30.5 x 25.5 cms


Harold Frank was a prolific painter who won accolades and exhibited often, principally in California, but also elsewhere in the United States as well as occasionally in Europe.

He was born in Southampton, England, in 1921, but his family probably came to America when he was still quite young as he is recorded as having attended the National Academy of Design in1936, the Art Students League in 1937, both in New York and the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. For some reason, he left home at a young age and moved to Los Angeles where he received further instruction at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and then at the University of California.

It appears that Frank was a reclusive individual who found human contact disconcerting and so spurned social interaction. He was obsessive about painting though and it would seem that, although emotionally he was apparently incapable of sustaining a secure relationship with anyone, let alone with a woman, by endlessly painting the female form he was able to overcome this void in his life. He never married but his legacy of many female portraits, mostly individual studies but sometimes with two or three figures, often nude, attest to his yearning and perhaps his artwork gave him some solace.

Harold Frank's great inspiration in his painting was the Dutch-born American artist Willem de Kooning. The latter was an Abstract Expressionist, part of the group of artists from shortly after the end of the Second World War that came to be known as the New York school, whose members included Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Hans Hofmann among others. De Kooning's style was also known as Action Painting and his influence on the work of Frank in the depiction of the human form is strikingly apparent.

Head studies and full figures were the predominant theme of Frank's oeuvre but he did also produce a few floral still-life paintings, the occasional landscape and some abstracts. Much of his early work was done in watercolour and a variety of surfaces were utilised for the painting in both this medium and oil paint. These included the reverse sides of illustrations, posters, magazine covers, cardboard and even plastic. His work displays an immediacy, vibrancy and urgency, which epitomises Abstract Expressionism and once translated onto the surface, creates an arresting image through the use of colour and angular geometry.

Jean-Luc Bordeau, in the exhibition catalogue for "A Feminine Ideal" at the Robert Zehil Gallery, wrote, "Acknowledged as one of the great watercolorists of this country, Frank has been the recipient of major awards and his works have been widely exhibited here and abroad. During my visit to his studio, I became fascinated by Frank's obsession with a particular female head, sort of ideal woman or portrait. Like Jawlensky, a member of the famous Blue Four, which counted Kandinsky, Klee, and Feinigner, Frank settled on a primary theme, the portrait head, which he has been exploring over the years with some introspective and mystical quality. His earlier heads like his nudes may reveal a heightened sense of geometry. More recently the geometry gradually loosened and Frank dissolved progressively, but without eliminating it completely, the head an abstraction of color patches and swirls of the brush. His female nudes reflect also an identical back and forth figurative and abstract mode, yet the artist tries to maintain throughout his variations a sense of inward vision, which epitomizes the pictorial mood of the contemporary movement. Frank is still searching for the utmost personal form of expressionism."

He exhibited extensively, both in solo shows and as part of group exhibitions at, among numerous others, Los Angeles County Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, Pasadena Art Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Beverly Hills, Emerson Gallery, Encino, 1973 Robert Zehil Gallery, Beverly Hills, International Student Center, U.C.L.A., Upstairs Downstairs, Laguna Beach, L'Atelier Gallerie, Carmel, Chester House Gallery, Chester, Vermont, Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, as well as in galleries in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Switzerland.

Harold Frank also received numerous awards during his lifetime such as the All California Show, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, 1976, Grumbacher Award, National Watercolor Society, 1976, The Adolph and Clara Obrig Prize, National Academy of Design, New York, 1978, 1977, Miles Blatt Award, National Watercolor Society, 1979, Certificate of Merit, National Academy of Design, 1975, Certificate of Merit, Watercolor U.S.A. Honor Society, 1986.

Harold Frank Abstract Expressionist - Sandie Stern
Who was Who in American Art

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