Post archive

‘Hopeless Love’ Mystery Solved by Graduate Trainee



‘Hopeless Love’ Mystery Solved by Graduate Trainee –

Exciting New Hannah Frank Information

Detective work by a University of Glasgow graduate trainee has unexpectedly solved an artistic mystery going back decades.

New information about the work of Glasgow Jewish artist, Hannah Frank, came to light thanks to Marisol Erdman, who has just completed a graduate traineeship at the university’s Archives and Special Collections.

Marisol has been researching the work of Hannah Frank, born 1908, and who was a student at the university between 1926 and 1930.

“I discovered that Hannah’s lecture notes contain some drawings and sketches she had made during her time here,” Marisol said. “I’ve been trying to connect some of the sketches in her class workbooks with some of her artworks to gain insight into her artistic process and the development of her distinctive style.”

She stumbled on an unusual discovery surrounding a pen and ink drawing from 1929 entitled 'Hopeless Love',

Marisol immediately contacted the artist’s niece and champion Fiona Frank to reveal her findings.

Fiona explained: “Marisol discovered via our blog that the piece had gone up for sale in 2010 but that the origin of the quotation contained in the illustration was unknown. The words, in careful manuscript, are 'a lady murmuring low words of hopeless love'. Hannah often used poetry such as that by Keats and Omar Khayaam, as inspiration and included quotations in the finished drawings themselves. We put out a call for information on this unknown quotation in 2010.”

She added: “This drawing, signed ‘Al Aaraaf’, Hannah’s pen name, was untraced for many years. It features a woman, facing the viewer, wearing a long dress. There are typical eerie Hannah Frank trees and a closely-drawn dark nightfall in the background. ‘Hopeless Love’ went up for sale by silent auction in 2010, along with three other drawings and a set of two woodcuts. It transpired that this set of works had been in a private collection in Norwich for 30 years.”

Through examining Hannah’s English lecture notes Marisol has found evidence that the quotation almost certainly comes from a poem written by Hannah herself.

Marisol said: “Opposite a sketch, which I think clearly resembles the finished drawing, there is a draft of a poem with lots of amendments. The amendments made to the verse suggest that this is an original Hannah Frank poem and if you look closely you can see the words 'a lady murmuring low words or/syllables of hopeless love'.”

Hannah Frank had a love of poetry as much as for art. While studying at the University of Glasgow, where she graduated in Arts in 1930, she had a number of poems as well as a series of drawings published in the University magazine.  A close look at the sketches reveals the words: ‘A lady dreaming…’ 'unearthly woeful words' and 'chanting' and possibly the word ‘dreamless’ – clearly ideas that Hannah was playing with before settling on the final version.  The sketch itself is labelled ‘Lady’, presumably a working title.

“It is particularly wonderful that this news has come to us in the month when Hannah would have been 109 years old.  Her birthday is 23rd August,” said Fiona.

A major exhibition of Hannah’s work took place at the University of Glasgow chapel in 2008, which Hannah herself attended for her 100th birthday. She attended the opening night, receiving a standing ovation and a reception in her honour was held in the Scottish Parliament.

Next year will be the 110th anniversary of her birth and the family is hoping for confirmation of a commemorative exhibition to be held in Glasgow.  

Hannah’s drawings and sculptures have seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the last decade and has toured the UK and in the United States.

She died on 18 December 2008. In 2009 she received two posthumous awards: Glasgow City Council's Lord Provost's award for Art, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Glasgow.

Hannah’s many diaries, along with her papers and those of her husband, Lionel, (who died in 2003) have been archived at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.



·        Marisol’s blog post about Hannah Frank's student lecture notes and sketches is now available on the University Library’s blog:



Notes for Editors:

A rough transcription of the lines:

 ‘a lady dreaming on her hopeless seamless [or dreamless] love

 a lady chanting murmuring low

unearthly words syllables

of hopeless love

I saw a lady who

murmuring strange

[the next line is hard to decipher – but is scored out anyway]

unearthly, woeful words,



‘Hopeless Love’  by Hannah Frank, 1929.  The sketches from Hannah Frank’s lecture notes.

Marisol Erdman.


Fiona Frank, Hannah Frank Art            07778 737681

Judith Coyle, Press for Hannah Frank Art

07872 484 149  

Marisol Erdman -


How Effective PR Brought Art Nouveau Artist to Prominence


Case study - Hannah Frank Art

How Effective PR Brought Art Nouveau Artist to Prominence

When she was growing up Fiona Frank thought of the distinctive black and white drawings created by her aunt, Hannah Frank, almost as family members. But it was only in the early 2000s, when Hannah was moving into a care home and asked Fiona to distribute the large body of artwork among family members that she realised how important it was.

She secured two exhibitions in Lancaster, UK, but even Fiona, known for her tenacity, was struggling to make other gallery owners and art critics see the value of the work. “It’s like walking through treacle,” she told me.

I was immediately attracted to the stark beauty of the drawings and slowly we began to work together.

We identified that Hannah, born in 1908 and then in her nineties, was “the last living link to the Scottish Art Nouveau movement.” This became the driving theme of all the editorial I wrote, always working with Fiona to ensure the message was communicated as she wanted.

Our ‘story’ began to appear in the media and a well-received show ran at Lancaster City Art Gallery and Museum in 2004.

Fiona then travelled the length and breadth of Britain and along America’s east coast helping set up exhibitions, workshops and other events. I remained in the “back room”, tending to the PR work needed for this ever-developing story.  Each show was publicised in print and on broadcast media, whether that was BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour or a small newspaper in Staffordshire. Hannah’s work went on show in galleries from New York to Massachusetts, from Falmouth to the Shetland Islands.

Then came a major retrospective at the University of Glasgow to mark Hannah’s 100th birthday. The artist herself appeared, receiving a standing ovation from 200 distinguished guests. I overheard one of the organisers say, “Of course, she would receive such a reception – she’s Hannah Frank!” This was some turnaround from the days of walking through treacle. 

Our press release for this exhibition was used widely in the Scottish national media and in UK national, The Independent, as news stories and substantial feature articles.

We seized on new angles too. As Hannah was also a poet we ran a national Hannah Frank poetry competition. This involved schools across Scotland and thus brought her art to a whole new, younger audience.  The prestigious prize-giving was at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, which, of course, we publicised.

Hannah’s strong involvement in Jewish community life meant that we could write PR for the thriving Jewish press and a Hannah Frank drawing was used in a new edition of the Liberal Judaism prayer book.

Press releases also publicised art workshops, print sales, the launch of new products, such as Hannah Frank note cards, special offers and book promotions. The more publicity generated meant higher sales of Hannah’s prints which, in turn, meant that Fiona was able to pay for my services.

When Hannah died in December 2008 PR had to be handled sensitively. The resulting press release secured very extensive coverage in the Scottish national media and other publications in the UK. Her death was also announced on the BBC. 

Hannah was awarded a posthumous doctorate from the University of Glasgow and she also received from Glasgow City Council the Lord Provost's award for Art Both developments came about because of the increased publicity that we had achieved for her art over the previous years.

My work for the whole project has included writing regular newsletters, which go out to our long list of ‘fans’, writing and distributing press releases, co-authoring with Fiona, a book called Hannah Frank, Footsteps on the Sands of Time – A 100th Birthday Gallimaufry, writing and editing letters, writing articles for magazines, proofreading captions and compiling and maintaining our press list.  One challenging job was to write, with Fiona, text for the beautiful, heavyweight catalogue that accompanied the 2016 National Galleries of Scotland exhibition ‘Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965.’ 

The words of Sandy Moffatt, Head of Painting & Printmaking, Glasgow School of Art, said: “Her work will always be considered, when there's a discussion of art in the twentieth century, in Glasgow, and in Scotland.  I think her place is secure.” 

Why It Worked

·       Strong story that appeals on a number of levels.

·       Focused, organised client who was willing to delegate.

·       Patience and perseverance: understanding that PR is often a long game.

·       Snowball effect.  Once PR begins to appear in the media it becomes much easier to secure coverage subsequently.

·       Valuing accuracy. This is a story that spans well over 100 years, comprises a large body of work and a huge cast of people, dates, names, job titles, quotes and events. All needed to be checked before hitting the ‘send’ button.  

·       Client and PR needed to trust in the process – and in each other.

·        Project garnered help from journalists and other contacts, a loyal graphic artist, a talented filmmaker, interns and a host of other dedicated people.

Hannah Frank Art

Director: Fiona Frank

(+44) (0)7778 737681




Click here for RSS feed