Frank Brangwyn Signature Brangwyn art in #s 3,6,7 & 10 of

Frank Brangwyn photoFrank Brangwyn was born in 1867 in Bruges, Belgium. His family moved back to London in 1875 where he attended school until 1879, when he left as much out of boredom as necessity. His father worked as an architect, muralist, and in other arts-related crafts. Frank helped around the studio and continued his own artistic education by copying drawings at what was to become the Victoria and Albert Museum. His abilities attracted the notice of more established artists and at the age of 15 he was working for William Morris getting rudimentary training and preparing designs for many aspects of Morris' Arts and Crafts output. In 1885, with nothing much more than youthful enthusiasm, he submitted a painting to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and was accepted - at the age of 17. Spurred by this success he rented a studio and began a period of productive poverty.

Frank Brangwyn - Funeral at SeaWith little money, his early work revolved around the sea where traditional subjects for British art were moored and made docile models. This is considered his "grey" period and the limited palette may be due as much to limited funds as to artistic intent. His 1890 canvas, Funeral At Sea (at left) is typical of this period and won a gold medal at the 1891 Paris Salon. The young artist was making waves.

Frank Brangwyn - The BuccaneersIn 1888, he worked on a freighter for passage to the Near East of Istanbul and the Black Sea. Orientalism was a major force in European art at the time and Brangwyn was as seduced as many artists were with the colors and light of the Mediterranean and African coasts. These trips brought a new palette to his work and something new to British art. The Buccaneers, at right, is from 1892 and the difference between it and his "grey" period is dramatic.

Just as we have movie critics today, art critics proliferated during the 19th century. Walter Shaw Sparrow, in his excellent Frank Brangwyn and His Work, devotes several chapters to the reaction of these critics to Brangwyn's art. Opinions were as varied as the two styles shown here, but what is most interesting is the degree of attention being paid to the work of a self-taught 25-year old. Whatever their views of his work, he was not being taken lightly. Not surprisingly, the bright hues and intense light of his new style were not appreciated by the establishment.

To put his work in historic perspective, this was a period of Impressionism, Art Nouveau, and the Munich and Vienna Secessions. In British art, Sargent, Whistler, Waterhouse and Draper were popular. Lord Leighton, Burne-Jones and Alma-Tadema were still active. Brangwyn was following none of these men and the critics were at a loss as to how to pigeonhole him. The continental critics in France, Munich and Vienna had no such trouble. He was seen as a most modern and successful artist from the beginning. For his part, Brangwyn followed his own muse and in doing so found himself at the vanguard of the art world. In 1892 he began working as the designer for the new art magazine, The Graphic. In 1895 he was asked to paint murals for the notorious gallery, L'Art Nouveau, in Paris. He won medals for his work in Munich and Paris. At the age of 30, while Britain puzzled over how to evaluate his work, the rest of the world viewed him as the definition of modern British art.

Frank Brangwyn - EothenBrangwyn was the consummate artist.

Frank Brangwyn - Skinner's Hall Panel Frank Brangwyn - Skinners Hall drawing Frank Brangwyn - Empire Panel
Skinners Hall - 1902 Skinners Hall - 1902 British Empire Panels - 1930


Frank Brangwyn - VeniceBrangwyn's talent was never bounded by one or two facets. He illustrated two books on bridges, a subject of many of his paintings and etchings. The Bridge and A Book of Bridges are two different books. He was also fascinated with windmills and illustrated a book on that subject as well. He loved Venice. The Pageant of Venice from 1922 was the natural result. (See the image at left - which doubles as a sample of his watercolor technique.) Belgium was the subject of another history. His bookplates were collected into yet another volume.

Two fascinating "biographies" of Brangwyn were written by William de Belleroche: Brangwyn Talks and Brangwyn's Pilgrimage. Both are extracted from numerous discussions and interviews with the artist. Pilgrimage is dotted with vibrant new drawings and both present the personality and history of FB in a fresh and vital manner.

Brangwyn died in 1956, an all-but-forgotten footnote in the history of art. His influence is still being felt today, albeit mainly third or fourth hand through artists who may not even know his name.

An interesting sidenote: In all the books by and about Brangwyn, I couldn't find a single image that contained his signature! Several were initialled, but nowhere was a sample to use for the heading of this page. I finally found his name in his design for the title page of The Girl and The Faun and used that. But I think it bespeaks volumes about his self-esteem that he didn't feel the need to plaster his name over everything he did. His style, in all his varied media, is all the signature he ever needed.

New from Auad Publishing
A beautiful and faithful reprint of the 1935 Brangwyn Portfolio
The Way of the Cross. Postpaid in the U.S. for less than $75.
Letterpress on 80 lb laid ivory in a custom, embossed folio. Highly Recommended!

To learn more about Frank Brangwyn, see:

Frank Brangwyn and His Work Walter Shaw Sparrow, 1910 Kegan, Paul, Trench, Tubner
The Decorative Art of Frank Brangwyn Herbert Furst, 1924 Dodd Mead
Brangwyn's Pilgrimage William de Belleroche, 1948 Chapman & Hall
Collectie Frank Brangwyn Dominique Marechal, 1987 Generale Bank
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of Knowledge Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 1999
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS 3, 6, 7, 10 Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 2002-2008

Illustrations are copyright by their respective owners.
This page written, designed & © 1999 by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Updated 2011.

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