Frances Darlington (1880-1940) is now largely forgotten in the annals of Art History, yet she produced several public works of art, which for a woman working in sculpture, even today, is a remarkable achievement. Frances however, was working in the decades when women were fighting for the right to vote, she was born just two years before the Married Women’s Property Act legally allowed married women to keep their own earnings.
Born in Headingley, Leeds, Frances went on to train at the Slade alongside some of the greats of twentieth century British Art. Among her contemporaries she counted Gwen and Augustus John, William Orpen and Edna Clarke Hall. Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore were key members of Sickert’s Camden Town group and the painting now held by Harrogate Museums and Galleries of Frances’ studio by her other contemporary at the Slade, Elise M.Bayley is redolent of their work.
Frances was an exponent of the New Sculpture Movement, and trained under two of its key members, Sir George Frampton (Peter Pan, Kensington Gardens) and Edouard Lanteri, the man whom Rodin termed “Dear Master”. Frances returned to Yorkshire in 1901 with the riches of her training and proceeded to produce some of the most beautiful public works in Harrogate, namely the Biblical Panels in St. Wilfrid’s Church on Duchy Road, which she co-designed with its architect, Temple Moore and the Harrogate Theatre Frieze. In 1907 her busts of Andrew Carnegie and Robert Collyer adorned the entrance of Ilkley Library on its opening and in 1912 she produced the statue of Joseph Priestley for Birstall Market Square.
This book charts her development as a child, her family background, her training and her career, its triumphs and its demise. It examines her context and her influences, treading the path less travelled in focussing on her Christian spirituality and the feminism which she associated with it.