Sir Frank William Brangwyn
Sir Frank William Brangwyn RA RWS RBA (12 May 1867 – 11 June 1956)
was an Anglo-Welsh artist, painter, water colourist, virtuoso
engraver and illustrator, and progressive designer.
He was born in Bruges, Belgium,
where his father had moved after winning a competition organised by
the Belgian Guild of St Thomas and St Luke to design a parish
church. His forenames were registered as Guillaume François. In 1874
the family moved back to the United Kingdom. He married Lucy Ray in
1896. She died childless in 1924.
He leased Temple Lodge, 51 Queen
Street, Hammersmith from 1900 to 1937/38 and bought The Jointure,
Ditchling, Sussex in 1918. He was knighted in 1941. He died on 11
June 1956 at his home in Sussex.
In 1936 Brangwyn presented Bruges
with over 400 works, now in the Arents House Museum. In return the
King of Belgium made Brangwyn Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold
II, and Bruges made him Citoyen d'Honneur de Bruges (only the third
time the award had been given).
Frank Brangwyn received some artistic training, probably from his
father, and later from Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo and in the workshops
of William Morris, but he was largely an autodidact without a formal
artistic education. When, at the age of seventeen, one of his
paintings was accepted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, he
was strengthened in his conviction to become an artist.
Initially he painted traditional
subjects about the sea and life on the seas. His canvas, Funeral At
Sea (1890) won a medal of the 3rd class at the 1891 Paris Salon. The
limited palette in this painting is typical of his Newlyn period
(although he was not officially a Newlyn artist).
By the late 19th century
Orientalism had become a favoured theme for many painters. Soon
Brangwyn was attracted by the light and the bright colours of these
southern countries. He travelled to Istanbul and the Black Sea, by
working as a deck hand for his passage. He made many paintings and
drawings, particularly of Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey. This
resulted in a marked lightening of his palette, a change which did
not initially find critical favor. He continued his travels to
different parts of Africa and also to South Africa.
In 1895 the Parisian art dealer
Siegfried Bing commissioned Brangwyn to decorate the exterior of his
Galerie L'Art Nouveau, and encouraged Brangwyn into new avenues:
murals, tapestry and carpet designs, posters and designs for stained
glass to be produced by Louis Comfort Tiffany. For his austere but
decorative designs he was recognized by continental and US critics
as a prominent artist, while British critics were puzzled as how to
In 1908 Brangwyn was commissioned
to paint the apse of St Aidan's Church, Leeds, but after it was
realised that the air pollution would damage the paint it was agreed
he should work in glass mosaic. The mosaic (using Rust's vitreous
mosaic) was completed in 1916: it covers the whole apse and shows
the life of St Aidan.
Other commissions included murals
for the Great Hall of the Worshipful Company of Skinners, London
(1901–1909), the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San
Francisco, 1915 (now in the Herbst Theatre, Veteran's Building
Auditorium, San Francisco), a Lunette for Cuyahoga County
Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio (1911–1915), the Manitoba Legislative
Building, Winnipeg (1918–1921), the Chapel, Christ's Hospital
School, Horsham (1912–1923), and the Missouri State Capitol,
Jefferson City (1915–1925).
Although Brangwyn produced over 80
poster designs during the First World War, he was not an official
war artist. His grim poster of a Tommy bayoneting an enemy
soldier (“Put Strength in the Final Blow: Buy War Bonds”) caused
deep offence in both Britain and Germany. The Kaiser himself is said
to have put a price on Brangwyn’s head after seeing the image.
Brangwyn is best known for the
British Empire Panels (1925–1932), 16 very large works covering
3,000 sq ft (280 m2) originally intended for the Royal Gallery at
the House of Lords at Westminster, but refused because the were "too
colourful and lively" for the location. They are now housed in the
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.
Along with Diego Rivera and Josep
Maria Sert, he was chosen by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to decorate
the concourse of the RCA Building in New York City (1930–34) with
murals. A sequence of large murals on canvas (originally from Horton
House, Northamptonshire) is held by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Dunedin, New Zealand. He was also chosen to decorate the 1st class
dining room of the Canadian Pacific liner, RMS Empress of Britain
Brangwyn was an artistic
jack-of-all-trades. As well as paintings and drawings, he produced
designs for stained glass, furniture, ceramics, table glassware,
buildings and interiors, was a lithographer and woodcutter and was
an illustrator of books. In 1952 Clifford Musgrave estimated that
Brangwyn had produced over 12,000 works. Brangwyn's mural
commissions would cover over 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) of canvas, he
painted over 1,000 oils, over 660 mixed media works (watercolours,
gouache), over 500 etchings, about 400 wood engravings and woodcuts,
280 lithographs, 40 architectural and interior designs, 230 designs
for furniture, and 20 stained glass panels and windows.
Towards the end of his life,
Brangwyn donated many of his own and other artworks to museums and
galleries of Britain and Europe. In 1944, he recovered and secured
designs by Frederic Shields for the Chapel of the Ascension built by
Herbert Horne which was destroyed in 1940 during the London Blitz.
In 1950 one of his last works was to provide the illustrations for
Sixty Years of Yachts by Herbert Julyan, a good friend.
From Wikipedia, the