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Henry Francis (Frank) Hinder (1906–1992)

by Eileen Chanin

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Margel Ina Hinder

Frank and Margel Hinder, by Albert Tucker

Frank and Margel Hinder, by Albert Tucker

State Library of Victoria, 49198367

Henry Francis Critchley Hinder (19061992), artist and teacher, and Margel Ina Hinder (1906–1995), sculptor and teacher, were husband and wife. Frank was born on 26 June 1906 at Summer Hill, Sydney, fourth child of New South Wales-born parents Henry Vincent Critchley Hinder, medical practitioner, and his wife Enid Marguerite, née Pockley. He was educated at Newington College and Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), and took art classes from Dattilo Rubbo, first at Newington and then at the school of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales in 1924. Rubbo’s injunction to draw rather than copy left a lasting impression. In 1925 he toured Europe with the Young Australia League. Returning to Sydney, having decided to become a commercial artist, he enrolled at East Sydney Technical College, where he worked under Rayner Hoff.

In September 1927 Hinder went to the United States of America seeking to improve his graphic skills. Over the next seven years he supported himself designing for advertising agencies and book and magazine publishers while studying and later teaching. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York, where teachers at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art invigorated him. Howard Giles and Emil Bisttram advocated Jay Hambidge’s system of pictorial composition, dynamic symmetry, from which Hinder developed a theoretical approach that focused on geometric ways of organising and relating the parts of a work.

Attending Bisttram’s summer school at Moriah, Lake Champlain, New York State, Hinder met Margel Ina Harris, a fellow student. She was born on 4 January 1906 at Brooklyn, New York, second child of Wilson Parke Harris, journalist, and his wife Helen, née Haist. The family had moved to Buffalo in 1909. Margel’s talent for sculpture was recognised early. As a small child she modelled rather than drew, and at the age of five she attended children’s classes at the Albright Art Gallery. She received a progressive education at Buffalo Seminary.

Studies followed in 1925 at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, under Florence Bach. Moving to Boston in 1926, she spent three years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, learning traditional modelling in clay and plaster from Charles Grafly and Frederick Allen. She preferred carving. On 17 May 1930 at the registry office, Wellesly, Massachusetts, she married Frank. From 1931 to 1934 Frank taught design and drawing at the Child-Walker School of Fine Art, Boston, where Margel attended his classes and those of Giles. In 1933 he held his first solo show, at Boston.

With the Depression biting, the Hinders moved to Sydney in August 1934, where they promoted modern art. For the next five years, they scratched a living as commercial artists. Margel experimented with carving Australian timbers. Interested in the contemporary movement and influenced by Eleonore Lange, they befriended like-minded artists, including Rah Fizelle, Grace Crowley, Ralph Balson, and Gerald Lewers and his wife Margo. In May 1937 Frank held his first exhibition in Australia, at the Grosvenor Galleries.

Margel was naturalised in 1939. That year, with Lange, Frank organised Exhibition 1 at David Jones Art Gallery. Margel exhibited her carving and Frank exhibited the painting Dog Gymkhana (1939), perhaps his best-known work. His attempts to draw unity from complex modern-life subjects involving movement were received negatively by critics such as Howard Ashton. During 1939 Frank also helped Peter Bellew to establish the Sydney branch of the Contemporary Art Society (president, 1956).

Both Hinders contributed to Australia’s effort in World War II. As a lieutenant (194143) in the Citizen Military Forces and a member (194244) of William Dakin’s directorate of camouflage in the Department of Home Security, Frank researched and developed methods of disguising and concealing equipment and structures. Margel made wooden models for use in this work. Frank received a war invention award for his ‘Hinder Spider,’ an improved frame for draping a camouflage net over a gun.

With the war over, Frank returned to commercial art, and began teaching at the National Art School in 1946; he would continue until 1958. Margel lectured at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) (194850), taught sculpture at the National Art School (194950), and ran sculpture classes in her home studio (195051). In 1949 the couple had moved into a purpose-designed Sydney Ancher house at Gordon. That year the AGNSW bought Margel’s Garden Sculpture (1945); it was her first work acquired by an Australian public gallery. It prefigured her increasing preoccupation with movement, and her ambition to progress from the classicism of a solid shape with a central axis. The spontaneity she sought was difficult to achieve in wood or stone, and in 1953 she began working with metal. Taking her inspiration mostly from nature, such as birds in flight, she made delicate constructions of thin wire and transparent perspex. Asymmetry, and the necessity to move around sculpture to comprehend its form, became central to her approach, and led to the revolving constructions she began in 1954.

The Hinders’ work was increasingly recognised during the 1950s. Frank controversially won the second Blake prize for religious art in 1952, although traditionalists derided his painting Flight into Egypt. He was awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation medal in 1953, and won the Perth prize for contemporary art (watercolour) in 1954. His paintings were included in the exhibition Twelve Australian Artists, presented in Britain by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1953 and 1954. In 1953 Margel was placed among the first twelve sculptors in more than three thousand entries for the international Unknown Political Prisoner competition. She was awarded the Madach (1955) and Clint (1957) prizes by the Contemporary Art Society, Sydney.

Frank’s interest in theatrical design blossomed when, between 1957 and 1965, he created seventeen sets and eleven costume designs, with assistance from Margel. His design for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust’s The Shifting Heart (1957) won the Irene Mitchell award for set design. In 1963 he helped found the Australian Stage Designers’ Association (president, 1964). His work was exhibited at the 1962 Festival of Performing Arts: Theatre Design, Athens, and the 1967 Prague Quadrennial of Theatre Design and Architecture. He was appointed to the board of studies, National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1958.

Aware of what he had gained from his teachers in New York, Frank became an advocate for art education. From 1958 to 1964 he was head of the art department at Sydney Teachers’ College, and, in 1968, he resumed teaching at the National Art School. Artistic recognition also continued. His work was exhibited at the 1957 Synthesis of Plastic Arts, Association Internationale des Arts Plastiques, Paris; in Fifteen Contemporary Australian Painters, New Vision Centre Gallery, London, 1960; and at the VI Bienal de Sao Paolo, Brazil, 1961. In 1962 the War Memorial Gallery of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, staged a survey of forty of his works from 1925 to 1961.

Meanwhile, Margel had become one of the few women artists in Australia involved in large public commissions. She won the Blake prize for religious sculpture in 1961. The same year, her work was included in the Second International Sculpture Exhibition, Paris. She insisted her large public sculptures should be related to their setting, and reached a wide audience through many commissions that became part of Australia’s environment. Her desire to express movement would ultimately lead her to work with water. After winning a design competition, she was assisted by Frank to construct the fountain for Civic Park, Newcastle; it was completed in 1966. This water sculpture, later renamed Captain James Cook Memorial Fountain, is acknowledged as her masterpiece.

While Margel articulated movement with sculptural space in the round, Frank searched for objective order using light. Lengthy experimentation with colour organisation in his own painting, beside stage lighting, design, and rear projection, led him in 1967 to make luminal kinetics, sculpture in which coloured lights and designs interact upon each other.

In 1973 the Newcastle City Art Gallery held a retrospective exhibition of the Hinders’ work, their first joint exhibition and the first time that a body of Margel’s work was exhibited. For their services to art, both were appointed AM in 1979. Another joint retrospective exhibition was held at the AGNSW in 1980. Economy of form, spatial mastery, and imaginative innovation were hallmarks of their work. Their dedication to the visual arts was showcased in 1983 in the exhibition Frank and Margel Hinder—A Selected Survey, at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.

Opposite personalities, the Hinders complemented each other. They were frequently inspired by similar thoughts and attitudes, yet displayed great individuality in their work. As a friend observed, ‘Frank is the cliff, and Margel is the ocean’ (McGrath 1980, 12). Frank was tall, good-humoured, and self-deprecating, with a honeyed voice and avuncular manner. Margel was short, direct, and ardent, a perfectionist with a keen intellect who could be outspoken but also warm. His sharp sense of the comic and the absurd was a foil to her intensity and passion. He died on 31 December 1992 at Killara, and was cremated. Survived by their daughter, Margel died on 29 May 1995 at Roseville; she was cremated. For more than fifty years, they had formed an artistic partnership, influencing each other in the exchange of ideas and exploration of media, and in focus and style.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Art Gallery of New South Wales Research Library and Archive. MS1995.1, Papers of Frank Hinder


    Art Gallery of New South Wales Research Library and Archive. MS1995.2, Papers of Margel Hinder

  • Cornford, Ian. The Sculpture of Margel Hinder. Willoughby, NSW: Phillip Mathews Book Publishers, 2013
  • Free, Renee. Frank and Margel Hinder 1930-1980. Sydney: Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1980
  • Free, Renee and John Henshaw, with Frank Hinder. The Art of Frank Hinder. Willoughby, NSW: Phillip Mathews Book Publishers, 2011
  • McGrath, Sandra. ‘Marriage of Minds—50 Years On.’ Australian, 21-22 June 1980, 12
  • National Archives of Australia. B884, N279580
  • State Library of New South Wales. Frank Hinder Aggregated Collection of Papers, Pictorial Material and Cassette Tapes, ca.1745-1992
  • State Library of New South Wales. MLMSS 6088, Margel Hinder—Papers, ca.1900-1995

Additional Resources

Citation details

Eileen Chanin, 'Hinder, Henry Francis (Frank) (1906–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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