• Isabella Ji

The German Émigré Artist Who Depicted a Changing London ~ Eva Frankfurther

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

Little Girl with Teddy, Quaker Street West Indian Waitresses    Orthodox Jew

Woman and Child Card Players Greek Church, Athens, 1958

After leaving art school, Eva Frankfurther, a German émigré artist, moved to a basement in Whitechapel (a district in London, England). She immersed herself in the diverse local community and used art to depict the changing lives of people during the 1950s.

Artist Profile

  • Eva Frankfurther was born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany in 1930.

  • In 1939, when Frankfurther was only nine years old, she fled to London to escape Nazi Germany.

  • At the age of 16, she enrolled at St Martin’s School of Art.

  • Frankfurther often traveled to America and European countries, where she became interested in portraying ethnic minorities and immigrant communities.

  • Her work focuses on the austere lives of people who lived during that time.

“... my colleagues and teachers were painters concerned with form and colour, while to me these were only means to an end - the understanding of and commenting on people.” -Eva Frankfurther

Browsing through Frankfurther’ work feels like walking into life in post-war London during the 1950s. The East End of London was destroyed by bombs, and its residents were still recovering. A truly diverse community of, Jewish, West Indian, Pakistani and Irish residents lived there. The subjects of Frankfurther artworks were families, waitresses, bakers, street children, florists, and butchers. All of Frankfurther's work captured the fleeting moments of everyday life.

Couple with Infant Church, Italy, 1951 Woman at Prayer

Frankfurther’s Signature Style

Frankfurther used dry paint and oil on paper due to her financial constraints. Her simplistic style did not appeal to high art conventions and remained true to commoners. She cared more about representing the subject’s inner lives, but also paid careful attention to their external features.

Young Girl with Coffee Mill

Immersing into the Local Community of Whitechapel

Every evening, Frankfurther worked in Lyons Corner House and closely observed her fellow workers. During the day, she painted and exhibited her work in local galleries, but she never signed her work. Often, she sold or gave her work to family and friends. Her portraits illustrate the struggles of people in the local community; Frankfurther's art focused on the pain and despair of her subjects rather than their physical features.


Frankfurther's Legacy

Tragically, Frankfurther took her own life at just the age of 29. Her intuitive sympathy for workers, immigrants, and families stemmed from her own experiences as German-Jewish refugee and eventually inspired her work.

Portrait of Eva Frankfurther







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