Sunday 25 September 2016

There is something so delicate about this well proportioned marble head. It is not a big head, just over 10 centimetres tall and 10 centimetres wide, so not life-sized. But it is unquestionably the head of a child. There is that purity; those wide youth-filled cheeks, the features still forming. The arrangement of the hair too makes it feel as if this is someone emerging, out of water or even the womb, this is someone arriving into the world.

Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

There is something so delicate about this well proportioned marble head. It is not a big head, just over 10 centimetres tall and 10 centimetres wide, so not life-sized. But it is unquestionably the head of a child. There is that purity; those wide youth-filled cheeks, the features still forming. The arrangement of the hair too makes it feel as if this is someone emerging, out of water or even the womb, this is someone arriving into the world.

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This beautiful head is by Gerda Frömel, a Czech-born artist who moved to Ireland in 1956, when she was 25, newly married to the German artist Werner Schurmann. Frömel was a sculptor who understood texture. She worked in many different forms and was extremely highly regarded during her short lifetime, with a very high place in the family tree of artists working in Ireland, though she remained always something of an outsider, never willing to sacrifice her independence.

Frömel tragically died in 1975 at the age of just 44 in a swimming accident in the west of Ireland and there was a memorial exhibition of her work in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in 1976. But then she seemed to almost disappear from the wider Irish artistic community's consciousness.

Thankfully, she is now being properly remembered and respected with a major retrospective of her work currently showing at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (imma.ie). Featuring more than a hundred sculptures, drawings, photographs and archival materials, this will ensure that Frömel is reinstated into the Irish gallery of artistic heroes.

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