Dance (1950)
Medium:Pen and Ink
Measurements:49 x 34.6 cm
Tour Stop no 6

Burning House Books, 446 Cathcart Rd

G42 7BZ

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Dance was drawn by Hannah Frank in 1950 and exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute in the same year.

The drawing stands in Hannah Frank’s third artistic period where visual results as well as themes are much softer than in the previous darker period, focusing on notions such as unity, warmth, and movement. The visual elements employed by Frank in this monochromatic ink drawing highlight these qualities further.

Dance begins in the upper third fragment with a curved line ranging from the top of the woman’s head, expanding through her open arms and then down, reaching through and following along the curvature of her body, ranging through the mid-section of the image – from the centre to the left, and finally down to the bottom right. This movement is then repeated in a smaller detail: in the seagull in the upper section of the third horizontal section. It is in this section that the intersection of the woman and bird occurs. In the union of the two figures, unity is found within the composition. This union is furthered through Frank’s choice of a monochromatic colour palette, and the bright white of both the woman and bird. It is interesting to note that after Frank married Lionel Levy in 1939, the use of white in her work grew. Where she used to favour using black to engage focus in her works, Frank now utilised white in the same way. The connotations of this are evident in the joy that radiates through the piece and the parallels of connection – as seen both in the intersection between woman and bird, and the union of Frank and Levy – further this through associating this ‘joy’ with a marriage. Finally, the curved line motif is repeated in the movement of the grass. Though, despite the echoed intersections of the leaves, the union of the bird and woman remains as the critical cross over of the piece. At this point it becomes obvious that the woman is somewhat otherworldly – is she perhaps momentarily lapsing into a hybrid form combining woman, bird, and the long grass – united through nature to culminate in one ‘dance’– like movement?

The woman’s body, as we often encounter in Frank’s work, is very elongated. In fact, very few of her characteristics link her to a human figure. Only her face, her arms, and her breast inform us of her nature. The face is depicted simply with very thin lines forming a calm expression – her eyes and mouth are closed, and she rests her head upon her left shoulder. The viewer’s eyes next drift downwards to her clearly outlined breasts. No other human characteristic is visible beyond this point.

The field stands before a harsh black background, contrasting with the whiteness of the figure’s body and letting her shine. The leaves are drawn with very thin vertical lines depicted throughout their length and almost appear like trees. They start and end beyond the frame of the drawing and thus span from the very bottom to the very top. They represent her whole environment and encircle her as she dances between them. Some leaves appear in the very foreground, before the woman, and bend in different directions, mimicking her posture. As is often notable in Frank’s drawings, the figure reflects her natural environment and here even dances with it. To the right of the composition, beneath the figure’s left arm raised in the air, is a very simply outlined white bird flying towards her.

Within the drawing’s overall feeling of movement, the audience can easily imagine the bird beginning to swirl around her and around the leaves – the whole scene moving along the wind and its imagined melody. Evidently, the power of Frank’s drawings often lies in their imaginary potential.