West Indian Waitresses
(Ben Uri Collection, presented by the artist’s sister, Beate Planskoy, 2015)
description A half-length double portrait of two West Indian waitresses at Lyon's Corner House, employing loose brushwork and dry paint in a restricted palette, sparingly applied. Frankfurther focuses on the women's faces and postures observing her subjects with empathy and dignity, although typically they neither smile nor engage with the viewer. Frankfurther’s migrant Corner House workers also document the changing landscape of postwar Britain including the introduction of self-service cafeterias with counter staff portioning out standardized food from open bains-marie replacing the popular 'nippy' waitresses. The composition is carefully arranged so that the two waitresses appear to mirror one another, implying a close personal as well as professional relationship between them. The strong verticals of their bodies and the solid horizontals of their beam-like arms form a static framework counterbalanced by a series of strong diagonals, while their stilled gestures suggest a rare quiet moment among the noisy, busy reality of restaurant life.The rose-coloured background is typical of the ‘feminine’ palette that indicates Frankfurther’s instinctive sympathy for women.
date c. 1955
location Lyons Corner House
dimensions 76 x 55 cm
medium oil on paper
exhibition history 'Eva Frankfurther 1930-59: Memorial Exhibition', Boundary Gallery, London, 15 June-18 July 2001, (44) as 'West Indian Waitresses, Lyons C. House', c. 1955, NFS; 'Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain, c. 1933-45', Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London, 2009, (32); 'Refiguring the 50s: Joan Eardley, Sheila Fell, Eva Frankfurther, Josef Herman and L S Lowry', Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, 108A Boundary Road, London, NW8 ORH, 14 Nov 2014-22 Feb 2015, (31); 'Out of Chaos: Ben Uri - 100 Years in London', Inigo Rooms, Somerset House, 2015 (44); 'Unexpected: Continuing Narratives of Identity and Migration', Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London, 17 Feb - 24 April 2016; '100 for 100: Ben Uri - Past, Present & Future', Christie's South Kensington, London, 21 May-09 June 2016; 'Out of Chaos', tour to Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, 15 Oct 2016- 26 Feb 17.
literature ed., B. Planskoy, 'Eva Frankfurther 1930-59: Paintings, lithographs and drawings (London: Peter Halban, 2001), illus., p. 24; eds., R. Dickson and S. MacDougall, 'Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain, c. 1933-45 (London: Ben Uri Gallery, 2009), p. 40, and illus., p. 82; ed., S. MacDougall, 'Refiguring the 50s: Joan Eardley, Sheila Fell, Eva Frankfurther, Josef Herman, L S Lowry' (London: Ben Uri, 2014), p. 88, and illus., p. 89; eds., R. Dickson and S. MacDougall, 'Out of Chaos: Ben Uri - 100 Years in London' (London: Ben Uri, 2015), p. 111, and illus., p. 110; eds., R. Dickson and S. MacDougall, 'Highlights from the Ben Uri Collection: Volume 1', illus., (unpaginated); J. Gulliver, 'Camden Journal', 2 July 1915, illus.; J. Wullschlager, 'Financial Times', 3 July 1915: 'Eva Frankfurther's kitchen-sink realist 'West Indian Waitresses' depicts ... stoicism and dignity'; 'Jewish Renaissance', July 2015, illus.; 'Morning Star', 29-30 August 2015, illus: '...painted ... with great tenderness and an impressively confident palette'; Canadian Jewish News, Toronto and Montreal, 11 December 2015, illus.: '... her work shows empathy for faces that were changing London in the 1950s'.
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