arts and design

Elisabeth Frink’s Riace Warriors: masculine vulnerability


No more heroes …

Elisabeth Frink created her four bronze Riace Warriors in 1986 after seeing two fifth-century BC Greek statues. The ancient figures are unquestioningly heroic: naked, body beautiful, dignified and wise. Frink offers a different take on the prizefighter.

Cold comfort …

Having grown up next to a military air base in Suffolk during wartime, Frink came of age under the nuclear threat of the cold war. Hers is not an art that glosses brutality.

Brute force …

The original Riace Warriors are thought to represent muscle for hire and there is more than a hint of thuggishness to her gang of four. Their bodies are intimidatingly heavy set, their chins jut out and fists are clenched. Their white faces recall the body paint of Indigenous Australians as well as football fans.

All too human …

While their pose loosely mirrors that of their classical counterpoints, it is tense, as if braced for trouble – or looking for it. They are hyper-masculine yet their naked flesh also suggests how very vulnerable they are.

Elisabeth Frink’s Riace Warriors.



Elisabeth Frink’s Riace Warriors. Photograph: Chris Radburn/Frink Estate and Archive

Elisabeth Frink: Humans and Other Animals, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, to 24 February



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