Artist (Linda) Michèle Franklin was born in Putney, Vermont State, USA, in December 1958 to a British-Jewish father and an African-American mother of part Native American Indian descent, who had met on an American civil rights march. Determined to become an artist from a young age, she was influenced in this decision by her grandmother, the painter Miriam Israels (1907-1994) and her second husband, Constructivist pioneer Naum Gabo, who also encouraged Franklin's early ambition. In 1966, the Franklin family immigrated to England, settling in Hampstead. At the progressive King Alfred's school, her talent was recognised by painter and art teacher Stella Magarshack (1929-2016), who had herself studied at St Martin's School of Art (alongside Frank Auerbach and Eva Frankfurther), and who strongly advised Franklin to attend art school. In 1977, she enrolled at Camberwell School of Art, where her contemporaries included draughtswoman Sarah Raphael and painter Julie Held, and among her tutors was the sculptor Brian Taylor (1935-2013), whom she declared at their first meeting that she would marry. Her student work includes her part Cubist Self-Portrait (1977, Private Collection), revealing the influence of Picasso but also drawing strikingly on the artist's exploration of her own part-African origins, particularly in the mask-like treatment of the face. She graduated with a commendation in sculpture but stayed on a year to study etching, afterwards continuing her studies, in 1982, at the International School of Graphics in Venice.
After her return to England, Franklin began to work part-time, teaching art therapy, drawing, painting and sculpture at Kingsway College, London for the next decade. In 1983, she won First Prize for Oil Painting at the Mall Galleries, London and her first solo exhibition at the Peter Potter Gallery, Haddington, Edinburgh took place the following year. Further solo shows followed at Edwin Coe, London (1991, 1998), Sue Rankin Gallery (1992), The Quaker Gallery (2000) and Sandelsons Gallery, Cork Street (2005). In 1986, she exhibited at Ben Uri Gallery in a four-artist exhibition with Cheryl Aaron, Simon Black and Ernst Gottschalk, and her watercolour, Banished (1985), was subsequently purchased for the collection (her work was also included in further group shows at the gallery in 1988 and 2006). In the same year, she held an exhibition entitled Women Together, at the Barbican Centre, London and became Associate Lecturer in Art at Camden Adult Education Institute. Franklin has always been acutely aware of 'a history in which women are often portrayed [solely] as objects… of sexual beauty. These superficial images do not concern me' she comments, 'as none of them succeed in portraying women as they really are. I choose the settings of my compositions in order to reflect, in an everyday context, the expression between human figures conveyed by body movement'.
Following her marriage to Brian Taylor in 1988, the birth in 1989 of their first child, a daughter, Belle, had a profound effect on Franklin's work, liberating her imagination and making her work more intuitive. In an attempt to create 'an emotional effect with colour and texture', she returned to figurative work but ceased working directly from a model. The result was a sequence of challenging and highly imaginative Birth Paintings.
Franklin's viewing of Claude Lanzemann's landmark documentary Shoah (1985), initiated a decade long exploration of the Holocaust and her own part-Jewish heritage in her work, 'I always had a horrific idea of the Holocaust with really extreme images,' she recalls ('Painting in the Pain', London Jewish News, 15 October 1999). 'In Shoah the notion of human nature came through, particularly in [Lanzemann's] interviews… There was no remorse. I realised how self-interested people are, which gave me the idea for the exhibition: Where Was the Whole World? at the Sternberg Centre for Judaism in London in 1999.' This was followed by a series of works based on tsunamis and, latterly, an ongoing series based on the Hiroshima panels commemorating the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but also other twentieth-century nuclear disasters. In a lighter vein, her work also encompasses colourful still lives and portraiture, particularly of family members. More recently, a solo show of her etchings, paintings and drawings was held at Blackheath Halls (2015), and a joint show with her late husband, Brian Taylor, at the Yehudi Menuhin School (2016). She has also exhibited regularly in the Royal Academy Summer exhibitions, with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and with the New English Art Club. Michèle Franklin lives and works in London. Her work is also in the collection of the London School of Economics and in private collections in Australia, Germany, Israel, the UK and the USA.