Hilary passed away in March 2021 and is very much missed by her family and friends, as well as all of those who knew her and admired her beautiful work at the Royal Society of British Artists.
Born in 1934, sculptor Hilary Frew went on to graduate from the Royal Academy of Art (in 1961). She was active as a professional sculptor from the 1960s onwards, with her pieces exhibited throughout the UK. Initially working mostly in bronze, her focus was often on human relationships – figures included young hard-up urban couples preparing for a new arrival, and groups of elderly folk exchanging stories. These were typically presented in Hilary’s early signature style of elongated forms, a sympathetic eye blending with an edge of unsentimental frankness. Hilary also carved in stone and wood, producing smooth figurative works inviting the observer’s touch.
Building on that, Hilary’s commissions included a large work positioned as the centrepiece of Harlow’s sculpture park, installed at the centre of a large civic paddling pool. Hilary’s work came to some public attention particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, with buyers of her work including the singer Dusty Springfield. Over the decades, she broadened her mediums, became a talented welder and silversmith, and developed a later style again inspired by family and human attachment. These often featured figures hugging or even melded completely together into organic but monumental shapes formed of Portland stone, bronze or lead crystal. Hilary’s desire always to learn led her to study at Goldsmith’s College, and to train at Stockwell College to qualify as a teacher. She worked at Crown Woods secondary school, teaching Design Technology, for over a decade.
Hilary was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1973. She joined the Royal Society of British Artists in 2000. She exhibited each year at the RBA’s Annual Exhibition. Her much-loved works were honoured by the RBA when she received the De Laszlo award in 2010 and the Whistler Medal in 2019.
Hilary lived to be 86, still working and exhibiting even in her very final years. Two representative works, taken from a hugely diverse collection, are presented here, namely the bronze couple and a more recent lead crystal work, illuminated from below, as Hilary intended, as part of its structure.