Born in Bruges of British parents seeking a more economically viable way of life on the Continent, Frank spent the first ten years of his life in Belgium, and when still a boy came across Cornish artist Charles Napier HEMY painting by the Thames at Putney, spent hours watching him, and began to sketch himself. His early informal training came from his Welsh architect father, and his only formal training was as draughtsman to William Morris.
Offered a painting trip to Mevagissy, Cornwall in 1887, he stayed for several months, and though he never settled in the county he visited regularly. On one of his visits (1887) he was to paint his first important work called Barkstrippers, an oil painting of workmen on a Cornish hillside stripping trees. This was the only one of three which he submitted to the RA summer exhibition of 1888 that was accepted and was noticed in the reviews.
Curiously, though he had not been near Newlyn, his work was discussed in this context: 'that Brangwyn's painting was a typical product of the school: it was rather dull and quite uninspiring, but it was competently executed.' Brangwyn developed a close friendship with Alfred EAST with whom he had travelled in Spain prior to 1896, and with whom he and his wife Lucy were visiting in St Ives in 1904, when his election to the RA was announced.
In 1930 he had completed 16 panels (7 years work) originally intended for the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords and considered to be his greatest achievement in their 'beauty and splendour'. Intended to form part of the War Memorial to the Peers and their kin who died in WWI, ultimately they were rejected, not as a memorial, but as a decoration for the Royal Gallery. Nonetheless, this magnificent work was not only rescued but treasured by Swansea Council, who recognised that though Brangwyn had been born in Belgium he was from a Welsh family. A beautifully detailed book by Frank Rutter, with a foreword by the Earl of Iveagh, in our WCAA Library Collection tells the complete story of these works and presents them with coloured plates, alongside preview drawings and studies for the completed panels.
Frank Brangwyn was knighted in 1941.
In 2006 Liss Fine Art and the Fine Art Society catalogued for sale approx 200 of Brangwyn's remaining works, with the aim of returning him to the 'canon of art history'; their catalogue of critical essays and plates, entitled Frank Brangwyn, A Mission to Decorate Life succeeds well in that.
Painter in oils and watercolour; muralist and draughtsman
works and access
Works include: Mill Wheel, Montreuil (etching); Barkstrippers (1888); Constructing South Pier, Mevagissey (1888)
Access to work: Chapel, Christ's Hospital; Tate; Aberdeen; Bolton; Bradford; Bury; Pavillion, Brighton ; Cardiff; Chelsea Arts Club; Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall (2); Guildhall, London; Leeds; Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery; Whitworth, Manchester, V&A, London; Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris; Cork; Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven
Swansea, Wales: The British Empire Panels (originally designed for the House of Lords, Westminster 1930 completion as a War Memorial)
The permanent public collection, the Brangwyn Collection, is located at the Museum of Bruges, Belgium
St Ives Aug 1889
RSA (27) & elsewhere
2012: 'Effortless Brushstrokes', Falmouth Art Gallery 11 Feb - 14 Apr
misc further info
Brangwyn (1978) Brangwyn
Evening Standard 11 Oct 1952, p6: 'No, Not Too Old at 85, says Sir Frank'
Galloway Oils and Murals of Brangwyn;
Horner (2006) Frank Brangwyn, A Mission to Decorate Life (Fine Art Society);
Macer-Wright Brangwyn-A study of genius;
Rutter, Frank (1933) The British Empire Panels Designed for the House of Lords by Frank Brangwyn, RA Essex: F Lewis (Publ)
Shaw-Sparrow Frank Brangwyn & his work (with list of paintings)
Cornishman 1 Aug 1889
Chantrey Bequest list: Tate On-line
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p315)
Johnson & Greutzner (1975) Dictionary of British Artists
Laver (1925) Portraits in Oil and Vinegar (pp9-16, with self-portrait p11)
Newton et al (2005) Painting at the Edge
Postlethwaite Some Rising Artists by H L (incl Portraits of Brangwyn & Elizabeth FORBES)
Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly
Tovey (2000) GF Bradshaw & STISA (Appendix 3: Principal Members of STISA 1927-1960)
Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash
Tovey (2009) St Ives: Social History;
Wood (1995) Victorian Painters (Bibl)