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Darlington, Frances

Frances Darlington

1880 - September 5, 1940

The life and work of a little known Harrogate woman sculptor was put on a pedestal in a show at the Mercer Gallery, Harrogate, in November 2003. Frances Darlington (1880-1939) overcame the obstacles facing female artists in her day to win major public commissions, such as the sculptural reliefs of The Stations of The Cross for St Wilfrid's Church and a decorative scheme for the foyer of the Harrogate Theatre. Frances Darlington, the daughter of a Harrogate solicitor, studied sculpture in London at the progressive Slade School of Art and then at the School of Art and Design in South Kensington. Her earliest works were portrait busts and relief panels with religious and mythological subjects, for which she often used her family and friends as models. Throughout her career she exhibited widely at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, at the Paris Salon and in New Zealand and the USA. Official commissions in Yorkshire followed Darlington's student years. In 1912 she was invited to work on a grand scale to produce a statue of Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, for the Market Place in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Darlington's best work, however, is in plaster relief. The artist possessed strong religious beliefs and she belonged to the congregation of St Wilfrid's Church, Duchy Road, newly built in the 1930s, for which she was invited to interpret the Stations of The Cross in sculptural curves and glowing colour, reputedly incorporating portraits of members of the congregation. Darlington also created a magnificent seventy-foot frieze for the foyer of the Opera House, now Harrogate Theatre, featuring eleven plaster panels of scenes relating to drama and poetry. Sadly, many of Frances Darlington's works have proved impossible


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