I dropped around to see Frank Molnar this week and was happy to see that he’s painting again. Frank is pushing 80 now and he’s not in great health, but you could never tell this from his work.
I met Frank several years ago when I profiled him as part of the Unheralded Artists of B.C. series. I got to hang out with Frank and his wife Sylvia in their little Point Grey home that’s filled with his stunning nudes, drawings and still lifes.
Sadly, Sylvia died last year after almost 50 years of marriage. She was his muse, in the early days his model, and she took care of the things that artists tend to be so bad at—self-promotion, marketing and currying favours with gallery owners, dealers and curators.
As Sylvia once told me, Frank does not paint to suit the market, “he refuses to paint to match the chesterfield.”
Frank and Sylvia used to host open houses. While that’s common now, bypassing galleries was considered heresy in the ‘60s and galleries wouldn’t touch his work. Instead Frank took a job at Capilano College and stayed there for 30 years. Charles van Sandwyck, now one of the country’s best-selling illustrators, calls Frank the single largest influence on his career.
Frank’s paintings are supposed to challenge the viewer, says Charles. “They are not subtle little things that you can put in the corner. Frank’s paintings say a lot, and he’s a classic example of a fabulous artist operating in the wrong place,” he said. “He wasn’t going to be the flavor of the month. He’s a rebel and rebels don’t work well with the establishment. I don’t think there has ever been a gallery in Vancouver that could handle his work.”
Frank is working on two paintings in his upstairs studio. One is of a large herring he keeps in his freezer, the other is of Persephone—in Greek mythology she is the daughter of Zeus.
“I’m having fun with it, but there’s a long way to go,” he tells me. “My emphasis now is more on colour and texture than before. I want more emotion.”
The figure is modeled on a drawing he found while he was cleaning up one day. The new painting has a hummingbird from his garden, and he’s added a dragon fruit. This painting, he says, is also a tribute to Sylvia and will include her actual earrings.
Sylvia would be delighted that Frank is painting again. She told me: “He’s emotional and highly sensitive; my goodness, that’s okay, I like that. I like a person with a pulse. When he doesn’t paint, I can feel it. You can be sure he’s depressed and not feeling well. He’s happiest when he’s painting.”
I brought Frank a bottle of Glenfiddich. He gave me a painting. He tells me the best models are dancers, but cyclists have the best bodies.
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