Frank Brangwyn

Brangwyn has never fitted comfortably into accounts of 20th-century British art. As early as 1914 he formed part of Wyndham Lewis’ infamous list in Blast and was pilloried as an archetypal establishment figure; and yet just two years earlier he had been singled out by Kandinsky as one of the first 20th-century artists to use colour in a modern manner. Brangwyn dared to be different, always maintained his artistic integrity, and was apparently indifferent to the consequences. Critics have been variously shocked, delighted and confused by his work. In the United Kingdom the general tone was one of scepticism during his lifetime, disparagement since; he fared better in Europe and the United States of America.

With Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo as his mentor, an apprenticeship with William Morris, commissions from Siegfried Bing to decorate his seminal shop L’Art Nouveau (1895), from Tiffany to design stained glass (1899), and a significant contribution to the first Vienna Secession (1898), Brangwyn should naturally have been at least mentioned in the Royal Academy show, 1900: Art at the Crossroads. But his total omission from such accounts is all too frequent.

Why have Brangwyn’s achievements not been fully appreciated? Brangwyn had no formal artistic education and remained throughout his life, at his own insistence, outside the art establishment. This was despite the fact that he was the recipient of endless honours. Brangwyn’s lack of art education allowed him to flout convention, to experiment with techniques and mixed media, but also left him outside the artistic social pale. Brangwyn did not appear to regret his lack of training, writing later in life to his early mentor, Mackmurdo, that art schools ‘only produce a lot of clever imitators, and destroy all originality and turn out sophisticated prizes.’

  • Frank-Brangwyn: The-Mowers,-1912
    Frank Brangwyn: The Mowers, 1912
  • Frank-Brangwyn: King-of-the-Seas---Raleigh,-1924
    Frank Brangwyn: King of the Seas - Raleigh, 1924
  • Frank-Brangwyn: War-Bonds-2-(Back-Him-Up,-Buy-War-Bonds)-W1930,-circa-1918
    Frank Brangwyn: War Bonds 2 (Back Him Up, Buy War Bonds) W1930, circa 1918
  • Frank-Brangwyn: A-Trader,-Study-for-Selfridges-
    Frank Brangwyn: A Trader, Study for Selfridges
  • Frank-Brangwyn: Boy-with-Globe,-study-for-panel-5,-Skinners
    Frank Brangwyn: Boy with Globe, study for panel 5, Skinners
  • Frank-Brangwyn: Church-of-St-Martin,-Ypres,-1918
    Frank Brangwyn: Church of St Martin, Ypres, 1918
  • Frank-Brangwyn: LOmbre-de-la-Croix---Book-1,-page-15,-1931
    Frank Brangwyn: L'Ombre de la Croix - Book 1, page 15, 1931

Frank Brangwyn Catalogues

Frank Brangwyn
Stations of the Cross

Published: February 2015
40 pages, +30 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9567139-7

This publication – which has been made possible entirely through the generosity of Tigger Hoare – was prompted by the discovery of a complete set of Brangwyn’s Stations of the Cross, painted in oil, which originally hung in St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough. The participation of the Diocese of London has added a dimension which Brangwyn himself would have relished. Although brought up a Catholic, his faith was a strong belief in Christian values rather than an adherence to one particular creed and he told a friend that ‘Life here is nothing without God. The time comes when one has to leave it all, then one says to oneself what can I say I have done to please Him?’ … In his own self-effacing way Brangwyn did much to please Him.

Frank Brangwyn
Drawings from the Collection of Father Jerome Esser

Published: February 2015
48 pages, 44 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9930884-0

During his lifetime Brangwyn made large donations of his works to museums in the United Kingdom and abroad, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the William Morris Gallery, the Albertina in Vienna and the Gruuthuse in Bruges. As a result of this munificence, substantial drawings by Brangwyn, especially his celebrated large sheets in red and black chalk, only rarely appear on the market. … The endless extant sketches that he made on the backs of envelopes, letterheads and scraps of paper are evidence that for Brangwyn drawing was a compulsion. In her forthcoming catalogue raisonné, Dr. Libby Horner has recorded over three thousand drawings by Brangwyn. … The drawings that became Esser’s collection, which have lain hidden for over half a century, were made up of works that Brangwyn, with characteristic modesty, had left in his studio with a written instruction, ‘most of this lot destroy’. Never intended for presentation, they explore and resolve alternative compositions and the relation of figures to each other and to the space they occupy.

Murals & Decorative Painting 1920-1960

Published: October 2013
352 pages, 130 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-908326-23

Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

This book is illustrated with a series of specially commissioned photographs that record some of the least known but most remarkable mural cycles in Great Britain. In the vast majority of cases these works have previously only been reproduced in black and white if at all. … Today murals are rarely seen as the artist intended. Often they are partially obscured, especially where there has been a change of building use. Frequently works are completely covered up or painted over – examples include murals by Mary Sargent Florence, Mary Adshead, Eric Ravilious, Dora Carrington, William Roberts and Gilbert Spencer. Where murals survive they are more often than not displaced works. Historic photographs showing John Piper’s The Englishman’s Home at The Festival of Britain, in situ on the river side of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion on Belvedere Road, come as a revelation; a digital reconstruction of Frank Brangwyn’s Empire panels for The House of Lords, seen in situ as they were originally intended, gives a dramatically more favourable impression than their final installation in The Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.

Murals & Decorative Painting 1910-1970

Published: February 2013
128 pages 114 illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9567139-6

The murals that were produced in this country in the twentieth century remain as one of the great inventive achievements in modern British art. Highly original in their approach to design, balancing varying degrees of modernity or tradition, they demonstrate the creative drive of their makers and contain singular expressions of the aesthetic, personal and social concerns that typify the ages from which they come. Some are celebrations of simple human pleasures, perhaps to decorate a refreshment room, an ocean liner or a dining room. Others are intended to be the highest expressions of their art, ambitious allegorical or decorative compositions that like the frescoes of the Renaissance would speak through the ages to later generations. The individuals and committees who commissioned them similarly believed they would both represent the best that Britain had to offer and mark the high accomplishment of contemporary society, elevating the public and private spaces they occupied and inspiring moral purpose.

British Paintings & Works on Paper

Published: 2007
272 pages 220 illustrations

This current catalogue has been two years in the making. The 150 objects chosen have been divided into three sections: Paintings, Works on Paper, and Design. The Design section is fascinating because it presents items that are rarely seen, comprising works in plaster, works on tracing paper, works on lithographic zinc plates, original wood-blocks, copper plates, stage sets, and poster designs. Neither pure paintings, pure drawings nor pure sculptures, they are seen as commercially problematic. In this catalogue they are celebrated. The immediacy and the beauty of the original wood-blocks by Frank Brangwyn, the original copper plates by Robert Sargent Austin, and the plaster maquettes by James Woodford, are, we hope, self-evident.

Frank Brangwyn: A Mission to Decorate

Published: 2006
264 pages

Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

This exhibition, which was five years in the making, was the largest commercial show of Brangwyn’s work ever undertaken. Our aim was to represent every aspect of Brangwyn's remarkable oeuvre in the belief that the range and diversity of his talent has never previously been fully appreciated. For too long he has been known simply as a muralist or a painter or print maker. We want him to be seen in the round: a man whose self-stated raison d’être was ‘a mission to decorate life’ .

British Paintings & Works on Paper

Published: 2004
128 pages 89 illustrations

There is no obvious explanation for today’s neglect of artists such as Sir Frank Brangwyn, Albert de Belleroche, Clara Klinghoffer, Richard Carline, Charles Cundall and Sir Gerald Kelly. They were hugely celebrated in their day, and it is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back. Art moves in and out of fashion: what one generation celebrates, the next forgets or rejects. The works of art do not change, nor their quality; in the life cycle of fashion it is only perceptions that alter What Monnington termed ‘works with integrity’ will always stand the test of time.

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