The past few days I have been experimenting with oil pastels. I saw some super inspirational oil pastel artworks by other artists and wanted to give it a try. Conclusion: I love it! It’s textured, it’s a lot of pigment and you can work very quickly!

After finishing my Tucson series in oil I still had a full palette with mixed paint. So I decided to make some quick base layers inspired on my Gerona and Spanish botanical drawings.

Then I visited Van Beek Art Supplies and took an hour to pick all the different colours of oil pastels that I needed (wanted 🙂 ).

shopping oil pastels at van beek art supplies in eindhoven summer 2020 the fran visual artist
van gogh oil pastels at van beek art supplies in eindhoven the fran visual artist 2020


Oil pastels are very similar to wax crayon (they are also called wax oil crayons). So, they are crayons that contain pigment, a binder (gum or wax) and oil. The oil makes the crayons less powdery. You can add multiple layers of oil pastel, creating an impasto effect. They are considered a quick medium because you don’t need to prepare your paper.

I chose Van Gogh oil pastels for now. Van Gogh is a good brand to start with any art supply, because it is part of the awesomeness but still affordable. When you go any cheaper than Van Gogh chances are high you’re buying crap that doesn’t represent the medium at all. Which means your whole experiment has been for nothing. So, if you’d like to experiment with a new art medium: start with Van Gogh and work your way up if you like working with it.

For now I’ve set my eyes on the Sennelier oil sticks. For comparison: the Van Gogh oil pastels are 0,81 euros a piece. While the Sennelier oil sticks are around 7,00 euros a piece.

my first work with my new oil pastels - art studio the fran visual artist 2020
my new oil pastels - the fran visual artist 2020


So, enough bantering about oil pastels, let me show you my first works!

new oil pastel work by the fran visual artist summer 2020
details of new work by the fran visual artist 2020
details of new work by the fran visual artist 2020
details of new work by the fran visual artist 2020

I’m experimenting with using different colour combinations. On top of that I’m trying to work as quickly as possible. Because that way I am sure I am working as intuitively as possible and that I am not overthinking it.

new oil pastel work by the fran visual artist summer 2020
details of new work by the fran visual artist 2020
details of new work by the fran visual artist 2020
details of new work by the fran visual artist 2020

Right now I am making one drawing a day. So in week I will be able to show you some more work.


Do you like the effects of working with oil pastel? Is it likely you are going to try it out yourself any time soon? Or have you been working with them for ages and do you maybe have some insightful advice? Would love to hear from you!

new work in progress the fran visual artist 2020
2 of 9 done
favourite colour to work with atm the fran visual artist 2020
current favourite colour


It’s official: I am a contestant of the Luxembourg Art Prize of 2020!

luxembourg art prize 2020 logo


The Luxembourg Art Prize is a prize for emerging and more established international artists. It’s organised by La Pinacotheque a museum in Luxembourg every year and it features great international attention.


I have submitted my relatively new mixed media works of the Happy Habits series. Because these works transcend my earlier works in style, material and artistic approach. And, more importantly, because these works are my most personal so far. They deal with the perfectionism I’ve suffered from for years. These artworks transform my perfectionist habits into new, healthier ones and in a way they serve as transformational art.

Happy Habits mixed media collages series – my Luxembourg Art Prize 2020 submission.

Beside the 16 artworks I’ve also submitted the short accompanying poems I wrote for every artwork. Scroll down to see and read them all in detail.


It took some time to complete my application, because of all the kind of difficult questions they asked me to answer. Like: what’s your artistic practice? And what are recurrent themes in your work? Though these were tough questions they already proved very valuable. Getting the right specific questions about your work and your artistic vision really makes a difference. It has inspired me to think and feel about this and to put this into words the best way I could. (You can also find this on my About page.)

My artistic approach can be summarized by three themes: energy, the boldness of nature and this human life.


As a child with a restrictive religious upbringing I wasn’t allowed to go to art school nor to pursue any kind of creative career. Obviously not a very rebellious child I obeyed but I got very unhappy with life, myself and the choices I made. After graduating it took me 6 years to discover I had to shake off all these restrictive convictions about what life’s supposed to be. So I didn’t paint until I was 30 and since then I feel this sort of incredible urgency in creating, in catching up with myself. That urgency gives my work energy and electricity. It makes my work pure, spontaneous, direct and bold.

The boldness of nature

Nature inspires me with her unapologetic colours, shapes, diversity and versatility. The same kind of inspiration I find in the work of Swedish artist Malin Gabriella Nordin and Canadian artist Sarah Hughes. Nature is the only place where I can feel truly relaxed and energetic at the same time. It inspires my work as well as my artistic approach. It teaches me to not try to fit into styles or boxes but to grow like a massive rhododendron tree and reach up to the sky.

Nature also inspires me to create my own universe, just like Yayoi Kusama. That’s why I translate my paintings into fabric patterns and print them on carpets, fabrics, scarves and cushion covers. That way people can really immerse themselves in the exotic bold energy of nature. I try to capture that energy in all colours I am able to create with my three primary colours + black and white. Mixing colours is one of the core practices of my work. It takes me away to coral reefs, botanic gardens and tropical forests. So while creating my own colourful universe I travel the whole wide world in my mind.

This human life

In my artistic energy I feel like the love baby of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. With my work I want to dance between the total bliss of carefree joie de vivre and the inevitable pain and sorrow that come with living this human life. I wish to lift people up and comfort them. We are together in this and all emotions are valid to feel and express.


I really feel this new work sums up my artistic approach quite nicely: because of the fast nature of making collages I can follow my energetic inspiration completely (like: scrambling a composition together, immediately seeing whether it works or not and accordingly starting from scratch or keeping it). Furthermore it is inspired by organic, botanical shapes because I want these new habits to flow through me as opposed to the more harsh perfectionist ones that block my flow. And since they are so personal they dance between the pain (perfectionism) and my innate zest for life.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits

It’s so easy to regret
All the joy that I forget
But how about the joy
Of rediscovering it once more
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits

Give it to me good and bad
Light and dark happy and sad
Don’t you play it down one bit
Oh come on just let me play with it
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits
Bold adventures exotic places
I want to meet beautiful faces
Foods I never taste before
All of this and much much more
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits
A swan pond covered in spring green
Let us wander there unseen
Share the bliss the energy
And feel limitlessly free
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits
I won’t show my aberration
In civilized conversation
But when you’ll get to know my core
You are gonna hear me roar
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits

Just like a creeper on the wall
I want to explore it all
Keep growing developing some style
And maybe bloom once in a while
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits
If the current carries me
I’ll move along wholeheartedly
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 happy habits
Let’s befriend all sides of me
The one who’s sad and its bully
Even the scared shitless angry child
From no on we are reconciled
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new habits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
Flavours I’ve never taste before
Passion fruit ice cream in that store
Let’s try some cake as well you know
Where would you like to go tomorrow
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new habits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
Can you see my inner child
Deep in the jungle hidden in the wild
I’ll keep her there for good measure
There she will play and dance forever
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new traits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
Out with the old in with the new
Fetch me a cup pour me a brew
Whisky or vodka anything’ll do
As long as it tastes fresh and new
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new traits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
Because the things I can come up with
Are nothing
Compared to the universal width
That’s why I say yes please
Surprise me
There’s so much that I could not see
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new traits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
This life is mine and mine alone
I won’t wait and won’t postpone
All the things are meant for me
How about being that free
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new traits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
I feel I understand just now
So let me say no matter how
The truth hurts me I will vow
To stay soft with you somehow
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new traits to heal my perfectionism uxembourg art prize 2020 submission
I trust life and I trust you
There’s nothing to it this will do
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


mixed media collages by the fran original artwork 2020 new traits to heal my perfectionism luxembourg art prize 2020 submission
Happy in the here and now
I don’t want to start a row
So fly with me between the flowers
And forget about the hours
Mixed media collage, 21 x 29.7 cm.


Because of COVID-19 the application period has been extended until the 31th of August 2020. The nominated artists will be notified before September 30th. If I am nominated I will be part of an art exhibition in La Pinacotheqe from November 2020 until April 2021. Of course you would be cordially invited if that would be the case. Fingers crossed and I keep you posted!


Last month I surfed a huge creative wave. My output was kind of large: 64 new artworks. 16 of them are these new drawings of Tucson city scenes. What do you think of them?

new ink drawings tucson inspired by photographs by Robert de Garde the fran new art 2020
new ink drawings based on photographs by robert de garde


These new drawings feature doorways, cacti behind barred window panes, cosy wooden benches between outdoor plants and one deserted castle. Their perspective changes from super zoomed in to panorama like when it comes to the one that’s not necessarily a city scene (the one with the large cacti on the hill).

zoomed in new ink drawing barred window pane tucson
Super zoomed in
new ink drawing cacti tucson panorama
Panorama like

In a way they remind me of my trip to Gerona. And they inspire me to draw new inspiration from the photographs I took there and the ink drawings I made. Maybe a whole new Gerona oil canvas board series is on its way, who knows!


My friend Robert de Garde travels the whole wide world and makes the most wonderful pictures. His exotic city scenes of Tucson immediately caught my eye. I asked if I could paint his compositions. He agreed and here we are!

I made ink drawings to make the compostions ‘mine’. That means some depth is off, some plants and pots become enormously large compared to their window pane, but hey, this is The Fran Zone haha!

huge plant next to doorway ink drawing by the fran 2020 tucson series
This plant and pot are huge!


These ink Tucson drawings are all 21 x 29.7 cm (A4). They are yours for €77,- a piece. They come signed and framed. You can find them more detailed here. Price is including UK / European shipping. Please contact me if you’d like to purchase one or more. They are all available through Artist Support Pledge.


My next step is to translate these new drawings into small oil artworks. I’ve already painted the base layers on A4 size canvas boards. And I intend to finish them with oil paint and oil pastels as well. I’ve been longing to try out oil pastels for a long time and now I’ve finally found a collection of 60 different colours in one package. So it feels like their time has come!

work in progress


What do you think of these new drawings? Do you have a favourite? Do you think they work well as a set of 16 or do you think they are all small artworks in their own right? Would you pair them into themes (like ‘window panes’ and ‘doorways’)? Would love to know your thoughts in the comments!


The next couple of months I am joining the Artist Support Pledge. Both on instagram, on my website and in my shop. All fun and games, but what does that entail?

available through artist support pledge mixed media collage the fran 2020
Available through #artistsupportpledge


The Artist Support Pledge was initiated by Matthew Burrows. The corona crisis caused all art markets, art shows and galleries to close, cancel or call off until further notice. Burrows figured artists could support each other by pledging to buy each others works off instagram. He started the hashtag #artistsupportpledge and the instagram account by the same name.

Since it’s start in April it has already created a small but dynamic art sales market between artists. And more importantly it has created a generous art community online. And it goes far beyond the art world, because anyone can contribute and become part of the community.

Available through #artistsupportpledge
Available through #artistsupportpledge


So, how does it work? It’s brilliantly simple: as an artist I post artworks online which I want to sell as part of the Artist Support Pledge for no more than €200,- By doing so I pledge that when I reach a €1.000,- in sales I will buy an artwork by another artist who is joining the Artist Support Pledge community. So this pledge is contagious, but in a good way!

And the good news: anybody can buy the work. So not only artists, but also you, who just loves art!

All my paper originals are now no more than €200,- So this is the perfect time if you had your eyes on one of them. Go grab it before someone else does and use your Fran Zone discount to get it for only €180,- (if you’re not in The Fran Zone you can enter here).

Available through artist support pledge ink drawing gerona the fran 2019
Available through #artistsupportpledge
Available through #artistsupportpledge


When I heard about the Artist Support Pledge I immediately decided to join. I think it’s so elegant and simple. I just love to support my fellow artists, painters, potters, mixed media artists, sculptors, you name it.

After joining I discovered all these talented people who make the most beautiful art. That feels like the cherry on the cake. Go check them out:


It’s very easy to contribute to the Artist Support Pledge if you would like to: just buy one of the artworks offered for sale by me or by one of those talented artists you just browsed through. It is very much appreciated. Your sale will act like a ripple and will support not only the artist you buy from, but many many more.

Thanks so much for joining! And I am curious: who’s your favourite artist out of my selection? If you tell me yours in the comments I will tell you mine!

The Fran for scale (no, just kidding).
Available through artist support pledge ink drawing el turros the fran 2019
Available through #artistsupportpledge


Who would have thought my first new work in my art studio would be collages? I for one didn’t!

Check out my Happy Habits mixed media collages in detail.

Check out my New & Familiar mixed media composition in detail.

new work collages the fran art studio the fran zone
new work by the fran art studio the fran zone

I was tidying my cupboard and discovered the two collages I made a year ago during art class. My art teacher encouraged me to start making collages. To try out new forms, shapes and different colour schemes. At first I was stubborn of course and I didn’t see the need.

Until I started cutting. I discovered I LOVE cutting coloured paper and who’s worried about ‘need’ when you’re having fun? I might have known though, because I loved cutting paper as a child and always made paper doilies. You know the drill? Fold a paper until you got a small square. Then cut it up, make little holes and tiny shapes, but maintain the integrity of the paper. Fold it open and voila: there is your paper doily!

So before I knew it there were 16 collages lying on the floor of my new art studio. That escalated quickly and I didn’t see that one coming…

new work collages by the fran art studio the fran zone
cut up paper from making collages


I used watercolour paper, ‘normal’ paper, crayons, East-Indian ink and coloured ink. To me they feel new and familiar at the same time. The technique is new but I used my own shapes inspired by anything botanical and organic swirls.

The next day I wanted to explore the idea further. I coloured all the paper I had left and made ink drawings on the back. After that I started cutting. I made you a short time lapse video of that (check out my YouTube channel for one more):

Within 2 hours I had 16 more! They differ from the first ones in two ways:

The second batch are all artworks in their own right while the first 16 ones together are more than the sum of their parts. The colour shemes are brighter and each one got a lot more going on than the first 16.

For the second batch I used paper I had previously used to write down all the nasty habits surrounding my perfectionism. Habits I wanted to leave behind in 2019 and not take with me in 2020. When I found them last week at first I thought ‘let’s just throw them away’. But then I decided to transform them into art. Because that’s something I try to do every time: transform something personal into art. That’s why the second batch has titles like ‘Resilience’, ‘Flexibility’ and ‘Pleasure’. They are the opposites of the nasty habits I cut up.

new work collages by the fran art studio the fran zone den bosch francine orsel
francine orsel the fran art studio the fran zone new work collages


collage by the fran, black ink, coloured ink and crayon on different kinds of layered paper, A4, available for purchase 200 euros including frame and worldwide shipping
collage by the fran, black ink, coloured ink and crayon on different kinds of layered paper, A4, available for purchase 200 euros including frame and worldwide shipping

The 16 collages of the second batch are all available trough the Artist Support Pledge. Read more about this genius initiative. Please contact me if you’re interested because I haven’t put them in my shop yet.

Their specs: black ink, coloured ink and crayon on layers of different paper (water colour paper, drawing paper, sketch paper) size A4, €200,- including frame and worldwide shipping.

If you enter The Fran Zone first you’ll get 10% off your first artwork. That means you only pay €180,-. Join today!

* indicates required

The first batch of 16 collages I offer as a whole. It comes framed and will be approximately 110 x 150 cm. Its specs: black ink, coloured ink and crayon on layers of different paper (water colour paper, drawing paper, sketch paper) size A4, €1700,- including frame and worldwide shipping. Please contact me if you’re interested.

collage art by the fran available for purchase black ink, coloured ink and crayon on different kinds of paper, 110x150cm 1700 euros including frame and worldwide shipping


What do you think of them? Do you have a favourite? Do you like the first batch or the second batch the most? Is there a colour combo that speaks to you? Would love to hear your feedback!

Now, onward with other new work. Because I have lift off and my urges to create are back with a vengeance!

close up collages francine orsel the fran art studio the fran zone
close up collages the fran francine orsel art studio the fran zone


Guys! Shit just got real! Last week I got the keys to my very first and very own art studio in Den Bosch. The place is totally brill. It’s spacious, light and it has got a very good energy. So if you were wondering why I didn’t blog for a whole month: I was busy preparing, furnishing, enjoying!

art studio the fran zone den Bosch
the fran in her art studio

I’ve created an ‘easle wall’ so I will be able to work on multiple large paintings at once. Just as in Spain. You know that’s the way I like it haha.

I’ve also created a cozy ‘mini living room’ for anyone who likes to come and visit. Like I did at the Eindhoven Maker Faire in September 2019. You can lounge in my comfy armchair. Watch me paint or enjoy the vibes in general.

easle wall in my art studio
mini living room for you to enjoy

Right now I’m busy turning the stage (omg yes my art studio has a stage – bless me!) into a wee shop / showroom. It will showcase all my art scarfs, art cushions, art table linens and so forth. An offline stone and mortar shop to complement my online shop. You are more than welcome to come take a look. Like I said, my art studio is super spacious so we can maintain a lot of distance 🙂


It may sound somewhat exaggerated: ‘free at last’ when it comes to my new art studio. But it does feel this liberating! For the first time in my life I feel I’ve really made a decision for me. And put it into action. For the first time in my life I’m going on an adventure I chose for me. This feeling results in a peaceful state of mind I can’t recall in a long time. Suddenly just being myself, being an artist is enough. I am enjoying it immensely.

happy the pappy in my new art studio
lemon on earth catalan collection 2019 large canvas

Free at last. To live my life. Not a life carefully planned by others. No life dictated by a toxic family system held together by religious fear and emotional neglect. Not a life in which I am only busy proving everybody wrong or proving I am worthy. Just my life. My own. To live and to discover. To shape and to alter. And to enjoy and to cherish.

After 2,5 years and a lot of struggles, sleepless nights, pain, fear and sorrow of letting my old life behind and actually burning my bridges, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. And in the words of Snoop Dogg: I want to thank me!


Welcome to the second episode of the Unforgettable Female Artists series by The Fran. Today I want to talk about Frida Kahlo . You might think: Frida Kahlo? Everybody knows her! How is she forgotten? And than I’d be like: well, a lot more than you think!

You can watch the episode here or read it below. Disclaimer: because of reasons the video is somewhat out of sync with the audio after editing. I find that highly annoying, but maybe if you’re less OCD than me it won’t bother you as much… Anyway, it won’t happen again!


Though you are right of course, Frida Kahlo is everywhere. You can find her face on any kind of product imaginable. Her image has become the patron of every kind of Western minority you can think of: women, feminists, queers, gays, mixed children.

So we have a Mexican female artist who has become the poster girl for all kind of Western minorities. She has become a modern day icon on which any group can project their identities. And because of that her own identity got lost. Forgotten.

You might also like: Episode 1 – The Macdonald sisters


Let me first tell you the traditional Frida Kahlo story. The one you’ll find everywhere on the internet. It’s a story about Frida Kahlo being obsessed by her husband, muralist Diego Rivera. It’s a story about Frida Kahlo having multiple bisexual relations. And it’s a story about Frida Kahlo flaunting her flaws – like her uni-brow and mustache – and her body like a modern feminist.

This story is a typical story told from the male perspective. It is not about Frida Kahlo as a person. This is patriarchy telling her story. And I am not going to go all ‘smash the patriarchy’ in this episode. But it is important to realise. For instance: the idea that she flaunted her flaws and therefor was proud to not succumb to beauty standards completely neglects her gender fluid identity which made her extremely proud of her uni-brow and mustache.

So the traditional Frida Kahlo story is a story about the men in her life. The men who analyzed her art and behaviour from their own perspective and thereby translating it into Western art history. Which of course is ridiculous because Kahlo isn’t part of Western art history. This way of history writing is classic neo imperialism. Taking something supposedly exotic and enthralling and claim it as your own for your own benefit.

What I’d like to do now is to tell her story from her perspective. And of course, being a white European woman I’m hardly the right person to do so. But taking that into account I would like to try.


Frida Kahlo made her art during the Mexican revolution. Her art was about creating a new Mexican identity. Based on pre-Columbian traditions, regional cultural heritage and more recent imperialistic influences.

Analyzing her art an image comes to light of Frida Kahlo as a die hard political radical. A complex human being questioning the very core of what it is to have an identity in the first place. What do the tags ‘female’ ‘Mexican’ ‘religious’ even mean? Who is in charge of what they mean? And don’t they mean something different for every individual?


In her art you can discover three reoccurring elements which she used to depict her thoughts and ideas:

Pre-Columbian symbolism

She used pre-Columbian symbolism such as characteristics from the Tehuana matriarchy to question the status quo regarding gender normality imposed by Spanish colonial rule. If you look at image 1, this is one of those paintings in which she pictured herself dressed in a traditional Tehuana dress. And she did wear these dresses in real life. She had a house full of pre-Columbion artifacts and symbolic trinkets. It was like her own museum or research lab on Mexican identity.

Frida Kahlo painting Self portrait as a Tehuana 1943
Image 1: Self portrait as a Tehuana, 1943.
Source: https://www.fridakahlo.org/self-portrait-as-a-tehuana.jsp

Pagan and catholic symbolism

Secondly in her art she used pagan and catholic symbolism together. Thereby positioning herself within both pre-Columbian and Spanish spiritual heritage. If you look at this image, it’s a Mexican catholic ‘ex voto painting’. It was made by folk artists in the 19th century and used to portray people’s greatest fears. That’s why most of these ex voto paintings have horrible depictions. Like this one: you can see how the man is being attacked and eaten by his cattle. People would place these ex voto paintings on their altar and pray to god to keep them from harm. Often the particular catholic saint who dealt with that kind of injury was also depicted on the ex voto.

ex voto painting
Image 2: Ex voto example. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex-voto#/media/File:Our_Lady_of_San_Juan_de_los_Lagos_votive_1911.jpg

Now if you look at this painting by Frida Kahlo, it’s called Henry Ford Hospital, you can see her lying in a bed. It is depicting her time in an American hospital where she was being treated for her infertility and pregnancy issues. You can clearly see the similarities between her painting and the nature of the ex votos. These are all things she is afraid of: failing to give birth, the death of her ‘flower’, her broken pelvis due to a traffic accident, losing the baby. In stead of flaunting her naked body for a male audience.

Frida Khalo painting Henry Ford Hospital
Image 3: Henry Ford Hospital, 1932.
Source: https://www.fridakahlo.org/henry-ford-hospital.jsp

Political statements

Furthermore Kahlo used political statements in her art to comment on the Mexican American relations of her time. In this painting she depicted herself on the Mexican borderland just confiscated by the USA. Look at how she depicts Mexican heritage: temples, a sun and moon, puking and crying, and the force of Mexican nature fueling the machines and industries. As if she’s saying America is exploiting Mexico.

Frida Kahlo painting on the border of Mexico and America.
Image 4: Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932.
Source: https://www.fridakahlo.org/self-portrait-along-the-boarder-line.jsp

So in stead of embodying all those things now attributed to her: feminist, queer, minority, mixed race, female victim, her art was about what those identity tags ultimately meant and to whom. And in a sense that’s very appropriate if you look at what’s happening with her image today: the meaning of her life being constructed by Western art historians and Western commercial companies.

In that way nothing has changed: a Mexican women is still being exploited by Western powers.

List of literature:


Welcome to the first episode of The Fran Zone’s series about Unforgettable female artists. This first episode is a special one right away. Because it features not one but two magnificent female artist from history. I am talking about the Macdonald sisters. Frances Macdonald MacNair and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh .

Watch the episode here or read it below.

You may also like: De zussen Macdonald


The Macdonald sisters were born in the second half of the 19th century. They were the creative and artistic founders of the Glasgow School. The Glasgow School was an artistic movement at the fin de siecle in Glasgow, Scotland. As an artistic movement it was a fusion of Japanse art, art nouveau, Celtic revival art and arts & crafts.

You may also like: De arts & crafts beweging

margaret macdonald o ye, all ye that walk in willowwood 1902
Image 1: O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood, gesso panel by Margaret Macdonald, 1902.


If you look at this painting (image 1) you can see several of the typical Glasgow Style characteristics: This is an artwork made by Margaret MacDonald in 1902. It is called O YE, ALL YE THAT WALK IN WILLOWWOOD. You can see the distorted, elongated human forms, the intricate lines all over the painting. Furthermore the painting seems like it is in 2D, much like the Japanese art of that time. And it has a Celtic fairy tale feel because of the depicted flowers and veils. All symbolical depictions of femininity. The arts & crafts influences can be noticed in the materials used. This artwork is a gesso panel and Margaret Macdonald used her skills with metal, paint and embroidery.


The Macdonald sisters opened up their own art studio in the Glasgow city center. At their school they met Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert MacNair. They started working together and called themselves The Four. Soon their nickname would become ‘The Spook School’ because of the distorted, witch-like human forms that occupied their art. The public found their work upsetting, creepy and sometimes even dangerous.

Check out my Glasgow School board on Pinterest for more images and inspiration about the Glasgow Style.

Economics and art where booming in Glasgow at the end of the 19th century. At the same time women’s rights and privileges were high on the agenda in Glasgow. Women were allowed to study, to pursue careers and the Glasgow School of Art played a large role in that by providing education and employment. Many female students were active in the women’s suffragette movement. In this progressive climate the Macdonald sisters flourished.


Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh (1876-1933) Glasgow School
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933)

Their creative and artistic accomplishments were noticed outside Scotland and the UK. And especially Margaret knew how to take advantage of that. Together with her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whom she married in 1900, she delivered artworks to more than 40 exhibitions in Europe and America from 1890 until 1924. After her marriage Margaret started to work with Mackintosh more often. He was an architect who designed buildings and furniture. Margaret designed the interiors of rooms in large country houses. She designed panels to go with Mackintosh’s furniture. And they designed their own house and interior together. Which you can still visit when you’re ever in Glasgow.


Frances Macdonald MacNair (1873-1921) Glasgow School Liverpool Scotland
Frances MacDonald MacNair (1873-1921)

The story of Frances and Herbert is a little different. Frances married Herbert MacNair and they relocated in Liverpool. MacNair had been appointed at the Liverpool school of art. The artistic and social climate in Liverpool however was completely different from that in Glasgow. Frances missed the freedom she had had in Glasgow. She got pregnant and became a mother. All the while questioning her life choices and decisions. And making art about it.


The Choice (1909) Frances MacNair
Image 2: The Choice (1909) by Frances MacDonald MacNair

Let’s look at this painting (image 2) by Frances Macdonald made in 1909. It is called THE CHOICE. And it features two couples. As you can see the two women are connected (the legs of the woman on the right are connected to the ‘dress’ of the woman on the left). But the two couples are clearly going their own separate ways. The golden circles laid out in front of the couple on the right are going in the opposite direction from the roses all around the couple on the left.

It seems like the couple on the right could be Charles Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald heading off to a golden future in the midst of the Glasgow art scene. While the couple on the left could be Frances Macdonald and Herbert MacNair whom she followed to Liverpool out of love. But with great pain of leaving Glasgow and the other two, especially her sister, behind.


The artistic genius an creative inventiveness of these women are extraordinary. And especially the name and fame of Margaret Macdonald was known all over Europe at the peak of her career. Yet they play no significant part in any form of art history outside of Scotland. How could this have happened?

There are two main reasons for this. And this is the first. How progressive and inclusive the Glasgow art scene may have been during their lifetime. Many of Margaret Macdonald’s accomplishments, artworks and designs have been attributed to her husband after their death. In spite of all the evidence of Margaret being the artist behind the work in stead of Charles (such as signatures on the work). Just as history has long been a tale of mankind rather than human kind has the art canon long been dominated by men.

And as for the second reason: Frances was less successful with her art during her life. Her artworks were written off like fairy tale, feminine oddities. Neglecting the great symbolic power and mysticism in them. But the most important reason Frances Macdonald and her art were forgotten for a very long time is the fact that her husband destroyed more than half of her works after she committed suicide in 1921.


So there you have it: Margaret and Frances Macdonald. Two artistic and creative geniuses. Responsible for the birth of one of worlds most influential art movements at the and of the 19th century. But absent from all the great art history books.

I hope you found this first episode interesting and helpful. That’s it for now. Until next week!

My Dutch blog about the Macdonald sisters
My Pinterest board about the Glasgow Style