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WORK OF THE WEEK | 13 May 2019

CAG.459 Gerda Frömel, Tree Heads, c.1964, bronze with stone base, 54 x 36 x 13 cm. Purchased, 1976 (Gibson Bequest Fund / Arts Council Joint Purchase). © the artist’s estate.

To celebrate today’s Museum Week theme – Women in Culture – we give you Tree Heads by Gerda Frömel.

The striking abstract form of Tree Heads (c.1964) has been in our collection since 1976, when it was acquired as an Arts Council joint-purchase with our Gibson Bequest Fund. It shows signs of the artist’s process as she has retained the residue (‘investment’) of plaster from the bronze casting. This was likely done in the Dublin foundry set up by Frömel’s husband and comes at a turning point in her career, moving from smaller figurative works to larger scale abstractions.

Recalling childhood Sunday walks in the Glencree Valley – one of Frömel’s favourite spots – their eldest son Wenzel has noted that ‘she would look up at the trees and say “I feel guilty about not going to service, but this forest is my church.”’ Perhaps some of that guilt and faith is bound up in this sculptural work.

Born in Schönberg (Šumperk) in the former Czechoslovakia, Gerda Frömel (1931-1975) was the eldest daughter of German and Austrian parents. Her sisters ‘idolised her for her daring exploits,’ as Seán Kissane notes, ‘and her ability to go her own way – but somehow [obtaining] her parents’ consent.’ Having studied sculpture in Germany, Frömel married Werner Schürmann and, in 1956, relocated to Ireland. Living near Rathfarnham, they had five children together but, tragically, she and her two-year old daughter were to die in separate drowning accidents.

An award-winning artist, she exhibited regularly during a short, yet brilliant career (1957-75). Her best-known work in Ireland is a large-scale sculpture entitled Sails, a prestigious commission for the Scott Tallon Walker-designed Carroll’s Factory in Dundalk.

Tree Heads (c.1964) by Gerda Frömel is featured in THE GIBSON BEQUEST 1919-2019: Selecting, Collecting & Philanthropy.

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