Frank McEwen: A Life Dedicated to African Art and Culture

Frank McEwen (1907-1991) was an art historian, curator, and museum director who played a significant role in promoting and preserving African art, particularly Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe. Born in Scotland, McEwen studied art history at the Sorbonne and the Institut d’Art et d’Archaeologie in France.

In the 1940s, McEwen became interested in African art and began collecting pieces from various regions. He eventually became the director of the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum in Zambia, where he organized exhibitions of African art and promoted the work of local artists.

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In 1954, McEwen was appointed as the first director of the newly established National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe, a position he held until 1973. He was instrumental in promoting Shona sculpture and helped to establish a network of artists and workshops throughout the country. He also encouraged the development of new forms of sculpture and painting, while also preserving traditional techniques and styles.

McEwen was a close friend of Pablo Picasso and played a major role in introducing Shona sculptures to an international audience. He often sent photos and sculptures to Picasso, who saw similarities in his own work. McEwen also worked with other notable artists, including Constantin Brancusi, George Braque, Henri Matisse, and Fernand Leger, and organized exhibitions of African and Oceanic art in Europe.

After leaving the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe, McEwen worked as a consultant for UNESCO, promoting the preservation and promotion of African art and culture. He was awarded Zimbabwe's Order of Merit in 1986 for his contributions to the arts. Today, McEwen is remembered as a pioneering figure in the promotion and preservation of African art and culture.

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