Woman with Birds

Medium:Pen and Ink
Measurements:42.8 x 34.9 cm
Tour Stop no 5

Wee Plate Cafe, 68 Govanhill Street

G42 7PX

Provenance:Private collection (Glasg0w)
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Woman with Birds was drawn by Hannah Frank in 1947 and exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute in the same year.

This drawing clearly stands in Hannah Frank’s third artistic period. Made in 1947, it attests to the artist’s mature drawing style, bright, calm, and celebratory in nature. The most visually imposing feature of the piece is a woman, depicted slightly to the right of the centre of the composition. She stands almost like a tree trunk – a linear block of white strongly grounded. As in many of the artist’s other drawings, the figure’s legs are not outlined, which gives the figure a trunk or block-like appearance. It appears as if the legs are not shown because the woman is wearing a dress, as indicated by a line forming a collar under her neck and another line around her right wrist. Whilst this explains that the female figure’s legs are not visible, the artist has still outlined the breasts of the figure, therefore accentuating her femininity. Both of her arms are raised from the core of her body; her right arm shows her palm facing the sky, her fingers reaching beyond the frame. Half of her left forearm is hidden in the same way.

The viewer’s eyes are led up towards the female figure’s face, where they find her finely traced figure and her bright hair arranged at the back of her head. She is looking towards her right; this gaze leads the audience to notice a bird right above her right hand facing the sky, in the left of the composition, flying towards the top of her head. A second bird is drawn at the bottom right of the drawing, again flying upwards towards her head. The birds could be doves, as suggested by their pure white and the form of their wings – shaped by the rounded form given to their feathers and the angular aspect of their very large wings. This interpretation of the nature of the birds coincides with the overall feeling of the drawing: peace.

The figure is surrounded by tall plants that take up the full height of the composition. Their very thin branches, or thick leaves, lean in different directions, breaking with the woman’s posture and her strong verticality. These tall white leaves are detailed with very fine black lines across their height, texturing them. The whole scene seems to stand on a hilltop, as hills are visible at the bottom of the drawing. They are highly detailed, as if a field of flowers was growing on their surface in the form of many small spirals. Those heavily detailed hills are barely distinguishable at first sight, because they are drawn directly against an equally detailed background. As in many of the artist’s drawings, the background is made of very thin black horizontal lines. Here it covers the whole height and width of the work, behind all the other elements. This depiction of the sky, darkened by the many black lines, leads us to imagine a foggy evening – in which the moon (although it could be the sun varying on the interpretation one chooses to adopt) floats at the very top of the composition, next to the woman’s head, on her left, and slightly hidden behind her.