Some of the most important post-war artistic projects were Church commissions, such as those for Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed by bombing in 1940. Basil Spence, the architect of the new Cathedral at Coventry, commissioned the young sculptor Elisabeth Frink to produce a lectern. This was her first major commission and she created Eagle (Lectern) in 1962.
While she was studying at Chelsea College of Art, Frink had been a student of Bernard Meadows, and she shared with him a preoccupation with the human condition and an interest in the possibilities of sculpting animals. One of her earliest works, Bird, 1951, was purchased by the Tate and she continued to sculpt and paint images of birds for decades.
Frink’s lectern evolved out of her previous bird works, and also studies she made of the birds at London Zoo. To create the feathers, she set kindling sticks into the plaster. Of this sculpture, Basil Spence wrote that Frink… “has designed and carried out a magnificent bird which looks as if it has just settled there after a long flight”.
In addition to the cast at the Cathedral, another cast was purchased by the Washington State Department for President John F. Kennedy’s Memorial in Dallas, Texas.
Eagle (Lectern) will be on display this year in two forthcoming exhibitions:
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power (22 June – 29 September 2018)
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, Elisabeth Frink: Humans and Other Animals, 13 October 2018 -24 February 2019