Dante’s Inferno inspires young artist

Thu, 02 May 2013 11:50:00 BST

Huddersfield graduate Frank To depicts the Glasgow cityscape in his Nine Circles of Hell

Judge Crane Pictured right Frank To's painting Judge Crane - Mixed Media on Wooden Panel 50cm x 40cm‌‌.

LEADING young artist Frank To first encountered the famous Inferno, by medieval Italian poet Dante, during his studies at the University of Huddersfield. 

At the time – this was 2001 – he admits that he was not quite ready to appreciate the work, which describes the poet’s journey to the Nine Circles of Hell

But many years later, back in his native Glasgow and building an increasing reputation as a fine artist strongly influenced by the Italian master Michelangelo, Frank To sampled Inferno again. Appropriately, he read the work while riding the city’s subway network.  And it inspired a new series of paintings that is now on display at a major art gallery. 

His concept was to use the Glasgow cityscape to illustrate the poem. 

Pictured below Frank To's painting Dante - Oil on Circular Panel 17cm Diameter.

Dante “If you look at the way that the Glasgow subway map is structured, it almost fits in perfectly with Dante’s Inferno,” said the young artist. 

“For example, the Lost Woods, where Dante starts his journey, is at Kelvin Hall, which is full of woodland areas.  The Tall Ship, which is at Partick, represents Charon, the Ferry Man. 

“The O2 Academy at Bridge Street represents the Circle of Anger, because it is located in the old Gorbals, which was renowned for crime.  And the best example is the way that the River Clyde fits with the crossing of the River Acheron and the River Styx.  Also, the underground is actually set in circles that can be viewed almost similar to Dante’s description of Hell.” 

He explained that in order to create the cycle of pictures he visited every Glasgow subway station and took nearly a thousand photographs, alongside sketches and personal notes.  Also, he interviewed people who had lived in Glasgow since the 1940s. 

Frank To’s cycle of paintings, inspired by Dante, was exhibited throughout April at the Leith Gallery in Edinburgh.  To sample the works click here.  For slideshows of the paintings, visit the BBC News Scotland website and to view Frank's painting of BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow click here

Sir Patrick Stewart

Sir Patrick Stewart portrayed as Virgil The project and its imaginative use of the Glasgow scene has caught the imagination of the Scottish media, and the artist is due to be featured on BBC TV and radio. 

Among the dramatic pictures in the Inferno cycle is a strangely familiar face.  As the model for the Roman poet Virgil – who is Dante’s guide to the underworld – Frank To used the famous actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who is Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield.  

Sir Patrick – who has a keen eye for art – developed an admiration for Frank To’s work when he encountered it at the University and purchased some of the paintings that he saw on display. Later, when the actor was performing a Shakespeare season at Stratford-upon-Avon, he sat for drawings and photographs by Frank and has endorsed the use of his image as a representation of Virgil.

Pictured above Frank To's painting Virgil - Oil on Circular Panel 17cm Diameter.

Glaswegian roots 

Frank To Frank To (pictured left in front of his work) was born and brought up in Glasgow, but one reason he chose the University of Huddersfield for his fine art degree was that the course included a business element, so that graduates would be well-equipped to market their work.  As his reputation rises, this set of skills is standing him in good stead.

He has exhibited alongside leading artists who include Peter Howson and Damien Hirst and his work has also featured in several national art fairs and shows in Bath, Harrogate, London, Aberdeen Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

He is due to exhibit new works at the prestigious Bristol Art Fair. Again, history will be his inspiration, but this time he is working on a sequence of pictures that have a First World War theme, especially the legendary German airman The Red Baron.

Back to news index - All Stories