Hannah Frank

Artist and sculptor

Born: 23 August, 1908, in Glasgow.

Died: 18 December, 2008, in Glasgow, aged 100.

HANNAH Frank was a last survivor of the Art Nouveau period when "Glasgow Style" became a global hallmark.

Her distinctive style overcame the vagaries of fashion in a career that endured for an astonishing 80 years, and her work, like that of Art Nouveau classicists Margaret MacDonald, Aubrey Beardsley and Jessie M King, remains dateless.

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Frank was the daughter of Jewish Russian migrs who fled the pogroms of their homeland. She grew up in Glasgow's expanding Jewish community in Gorbals, and from her scientific instrument-maker father she inherited dexterity and the art of sustained concentration.

A tiny, bird-like person with piercing observation, she was destined in her mind to be an artist, and her talents were encouraged by her parents, Miriam and Charles..

Frank initially eschewed an artistic career, graduating from Glasgow University in English and Latin to teach in the city's East End. But she attended evening classes at Glasgow School of Art studying lithography and drawing, widening her interests to include wood engraving – for which she received the James McBey Prize – and from 1930 her drawings featured regularly at annual exhibitions of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts.

At Glasgow, Benno Schotz developed her nascent interest in sculpture, and under his direction she concentrated on three-dimensional work, exhibiting at the RGI (Royal Glasgow Institute) and the Royal Scottish Academy, with shows at Stirling University, the Portico in Manchester, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Royal Academy in London.

It says much for the timelessness of her work that an exhibition in Falmouth in 2005 included There Sits Repentance of 1925 and her unfinished work of 1930, Adam And Eve.

Her black-and-white illustrations, with their elongated structures, mediaeval romanticism and melancholic air, are instantly recognisable.

She began her trademark line drawings while still at school, and her skills were such that in the five years from 1927, the Glasgow University magazine rarely appeared without her work.

Her drawings possess an austerity and stylisation not found in the work of other artists, wistful in long flowing tresses, or filled with sunshine and capturing youthful exuberance.

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Painter Alma Wolfson, recent president of the Glasgow Society of Women Artists, confirms that Frank's oeuvre bears "very definite Glasgow influences". Wolfson cites Margaret MacDonald, wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Jessie King, as influences.

Her last drawings are dated 1952, by which time her earliest sculptures appear – small-scale figure studies in plaster, terracotta and bronze, with the influences of Schotz, Paul Zunderstein and Henry Moore evident, yet continuing a style that remained markedly her own into her larger torso-sized pieces.

The standard of her work drew covetous eyes from Sydney Goodsir Smith, who, reviewing the 1965 Royal Scottish Academy exhibition, wrote: "Hannah Frank's voluptuous Reclining Woman is classical in her ease of pose and perfect calm, a lovely wee thing." He went on: "One of the most covetable pieces is a tiny green bronze, Woman Resting."

Frank continued to sculpt into her early 90s. Her 100th birthday was celebrated with the opening of an exhibition of her work at Glasgow University, and a reception a month later in the Scottish Parliament.

Throughout her long life, Frank maintained diaries, voluminous material that along with the rest of her papers, has been archived by her niece Fiona Frank as part of a permanent memorial to her and her work.

The recognition now given to Hannah Frank emerges almost entirely to the efforts of Fiona, tirelessly promoting her aunt's creations through a succession of galleries exhibitions and broadcasts.

Like a veteran trouper, Frank took all this attention in her stride, though having to walk through one gallery four times for a TV "take" made her feel that at her age, the price of fame required perhaps too much physical effort.

Frank's husband, Lionel Levy, predeceased her five years ago after 65 years of marriage. They had no children, but are survived by a wide and loving family of cousins, in-laws, nieces, nephews and their children. Among the mourners at her burial in Cathcart Jewish Cemetery just before Christmas was her constituency MP, Jim Murphy, her visitor when she turned 100 in August, and who shares her birthday.

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The day before her death – too late for her to know – a letter had been sent from Glasgow University offering her an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of her "international distinction".

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