Trevor Frankland RBA RE PPRWS Hon.RI ( 1931 - 2011 )


Trevor Frankland

Trevor Frankland was one of the most unusual and interesting people I have had the privilege of meeting. Born in Middlesbrough, and although he dreamed of becoming an artist and studying at the Royal Academy Schools, circumstances required that he trained as an apprentice shipyard draughtsman at Southbank on Tees. In 1950 he met Dorothy Southern who was also an aspiring artist and together they drew and painted on the Yorkshire Moors. Called up for National service, Trevor joined the RAF and was able to ask for an educational posting which enabled him to study at the Laird School of Art at Birkenhead and in 1954 won a place at the Royal Academy Schools where his tutors included Peter Greenham, Bernard Fleetwood-Walker and the Keeper, Sir Henry Rushbury. During his years at the RA Schools (1954-1958) Trevor won numerous prizes including the David Murray Studentship and the Landseer Scholarship. In 1957 he won the Royal Academy Silver Medal for Drawing and later in the year married Dorothy Southern (now RBA) at Middlesbrough Registry Office. On leaving the RA Schools, Trevor began teaching at several art colleges. He enjoyed teaching and his pupils have told me of their respect for him, but he also realised that he should never take a full-time post if he wanted to develop his own career as an artist. In the mid-1960’s Trevor taught for 2-3 days a week at Hornsey College of Art, where he became friendly with the late Richard Robbins, Hon RBA. During this period Trevor was working on a series of large three-dimensional wood and hardboard reliefs which he painted in bright colours using polyeurathane to give a glossy finish. One of these was bought by Rank Xerox for 100 guineas and in 1970 he was given a one-man show at Billingham Art Gallery on Teeside where the local papers took pride in a local boy who had made good in London. Most of these large reliefs were composed as hexagons allowing endless permutations of geometrical division. Middlesbrough Art Gallery bought a relief from the exhibition.

Trevor Frankland - Villa Contarini No 2
Villa Contarini No 2

Between 1972 and 1983 Trevor held many one-man shows at prestigious venues including the Caluste Gulbenkian Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead, Birmingham University and Worcester City Art Gallery often selling pieces to local authorities. Trevor began exploring his ideas as paintings rather than as relief sculptures and the acquisition of a printing press in 1986 marked a move towards printmaking. Trevor’s interest in structure and composition was carried over into his watercolours and prints, as he developed his unique style which often consisted of simplified objects and interiors placed against a black background. In an interview I conducted with Trevor for an article in 2005, he said : “I describe my art as the persistence of the past, a combination of inner and outer worlds. I believe that the influence of the past on the present can be seen in every aspect of the world around us, from human thought to the structure of landscape. I am interested in the geometry of ‘interior space’ governed by memory and imagination, where images appear and disappear as in a crystal ball, but in the process create a curious perpetual present. Finding the appropriate forms so that these elusive images can have their own reality requires a combination of formal structure with descriptive detail’. In 1995 Trevor was elected Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society becoming President in 2003, his Presidency coinciding with the bicentennial celebrations which included visits from Her Majesty the Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales who is an Honorary Member of the RWS. A dinner was held at the House of Lords and two new books on watercolours were commissioned and published by the Society. Trevor proved to be an effective and inspirational President. In addition Trevor was elected RBA in 1995 and served for many years on the Council where his experience and wise counsel was invaluable. He was also a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, London Group, Art Workers Guild, Small Painters Society and Hon Member of the RI.

Trevor Frankland with HRH The Queen and Simon Fenwick at the Bankside Gallery 2004
Trevor Frankland with HRH The Queen and Simon Fenwick at the
Bankside Gallery 2004

Trevor had many other interests in addition to his art. He was passionate about gardens and design and very proud of his London garden based on a dry stone, waterless Japanese Zen garden. He and Dorothy were also great travellers with a particular love of Italy, North Africa and the Middle East. Unbeknown to many of us, Trevor was also involved in Freemasonry. Maybe the crowning achievement of Trevor’s life was the appearance in 2009 of Simon Fenwick’s biography ‘Trevor Frankland. Between Clarity and Mystery’. I found Trevor a charming and amusing companion, and extremely generous. Over the years he gave me 5 books about the RWS and the London Group and my abiding memory is a vision of a smiling Trevor coming across the Mall Gallery with a book under his arm, always wrapped in an old plastic carrier bag : ‘Hello Julian. I know how much you like art books, so I’ve brought this along for you’.

Julian Halsby