top of page

LJMU hosts major Fanchon Fröhlich retrospective

A major exhibition of the work of an important Liverpool abstract artist overlooked during her lifetime for being the “wrong sex” has gone on show in the city.

Organisers of the retrospective show at Liverpool John Moores University hope it will begin a reappraisal of the work of Fanchon Fröhlich.

Born in Iowa in 1927, Fanchon Angst made Liverpool her home for more than 65 years and studied linguistic philosophy at Oxford and fine art at Liverpool College of Art in Hope Street.

She was introduced to her future husband, the German-born British physicist Herbert Fröhlich, later chair of theoretical physics at the University of Liverpool, at a meeting of a local German circle and they married in the city in 1950.

Fröhlich travelled globally, exploring new techniques and approaches to practice developing many collaborations with eminent post-war artists and printmakers including Peter Lanyon in St Ives and calligraphic artist Goto San in Kyoto.

She was involved with Stanley William Hayter’s influential Atelier 17 in Paris and later exhibited her prints alongside Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miró.

In addition to her art, she pursued her interest in philosophy and theoretical physics and was a friend of Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger as well as Liverpool author Beryl Bainbridge. She and her husband also devised a ballet based on the interaction of fundamental particles.

Above: The Wrong Sex exhibition. Photo by Jonathan Caswell. Top: Fanchon Fröhlich.

After she died in 2016, the British Art and Design Association (BADA) was bequeathed a substantial collection of Fröhlich’s art along with letters, journals, and papers.

Fröhlich was continually reinventing herself as an artist. Her prolific output included abstract expressionist paintings, prints, etchings and drawings and the exhibition will explore the breadth of her artistic practice.

Dr James Schofield, programme leader MA Exhibition Studies at LJMU’s School of Art and Design, says: “Fanchon exhibited alongside Joan Miró in the 1960s but was largely overlooked, not because of her art but purely because she was deemed to be ‘the wrong sex’ for an abstract expressionist painter of the time.

“We directly address this prejudiced assumption to platforming Fanchon, her practice and her life. The aim is to open out her legacy to new audiences and show the impact she had across artistic, scientific and philosophical spheres.”

Above: Fröhlich's practice included abstract expressionism.

BADA chairman Terry Duffy, who was a friend of the artist for nearly 25 years, adds: “Fanchon Fröhlich left an incredible body of work which demands to be appreciated and for her amazing talent to be recognised in the same way that equivalent males artist have been.

“She told me that she was once dismissed for being “the wrong sex”, and like many female artists and scientists of that time, and earlier, Fanchon was in the shadows of her male counterparts. But for those prevailing attitudes she would not have been sidelined nor disregarded but famous and highly influential.

“The time has come for us to look at her work again and The Wrong Sex directly addresses this prejudiced assumption to platform her practice and her life by opening out her legacy to new audiences and disseminating the impact she had across artistic, scientific and philosophical spheres and provide a starting point for future research, response and collaboration for practitioners and BADA.”

In addition to the BADA exhibition at LJMU, later this year the University of Liverpool will also host its own retrospective of Fröhlich’s work alongside many of her contemporaries.

The Wrong Sex is on show at the LJMU John Lennon Building in Duckinfield Street until May 4, Monday to Friday except for strike days and university holidays.

bottom of page