Frank Brangwyn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Frank William Brangwyn
Frank Brangwyn.jpg
Born (1867-05-12)12 May 1867
Bruges, Belgium
Died 11 June 1956(1956-06-11) (aged 89)
Ditchling, Sussex, England
Nationality British
Awards Albert Medal (1932)

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.


Old Houses (Ghent). 1906. 55.5 × 60.5 cm. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

Frank Brangwyn was born in Bruges, Belgium where his father 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 leased Temple Lodge, 51 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London from 1900 to 1937/38 and bought The Jointure, Ditchling, Sussex in 1918.

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).[1] He was knighted in 1941.

In 1896, he married Lucy Ray, who died in 1924. They had no children. He had an affair with Ellen Kate Chesterfield, which produced a son, James Barron Chesterfield-Brangwyn, born 1885 in Mevagissey, Cornwall. James later emigrated to Australia in 1909, initially working on a farm in Townsville, Queensland and later moving to Brisbane.

Brangwyn died on 11 June 1956 at his home in Sussex.[2] [3]


World War I poster for a fundraising event in support of Welsh troops. Lithograph designed by Frank Brangwyn in 1915. Digitally restored.
Temple Lodge, Hammersmith, London

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.[4] 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, working as a deck hand for his passage. He made many paintings and drawings, particularly of Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey. This lightened his palette, a change that initially did not find critical favor. He continued his travels to different parts of Africa, including 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, 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 American critics as a prominent artist, while British critics were puzzled as how to evaluate him.

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.[5][6]

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).][7]

Although Brangwyn produced more than 80 poster designs during the First World War, he was not an official war artist.[8] 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.[9]

Brangwyn is best known for the British Empire Panels (1925–1932), 16 large works that cover 3,000 sq ft (280 m2). These were originally intended for the Royal Gallery at the House of Lords at Westminster, but the House of Lords refused them because they were "too colourful and lively" for the location. They are now housed in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.[10][11]

In 1925–1926, he served as President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.[12]

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 and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand. He was also chosen to decorate the 1st class dining room of the Canadian Pacific liner, RMS Empress of Britain (1930–1931)].

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.[13] He collaborated with Japanese Urushibara Mokuchu on a series of woodblock prints.[14] 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.[15]

British Empire Panels in the Brangywn Hall, Swansea

Towards the end of his life, Brangwyn donated many of his own and other artworks to museums and galleries in Britain and Europe including The British Museum and The William Morris Gallery. 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 provided illustrations for the book Sixty Years of Yachts by Herbert Julyan, a good friend.


The art writer Marius Gombrich links the decline of interest in Brangwyn's works to the decline of the British Empire, pointing out that Brangwyn's bold, vigorous, outward-looking art was suited to the expansive spirit of late-Victorian British society—but inconsistent with the inward-looking, less confident, and intellectually effete ethos prevalent in the post World War I period.[16]

Public collections[edit]



  • Meic Stephens (Editor): The New Companion to the Literature of Wales (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1998) ISBN 0-7083-1383-3
  • Preston, Hayter and Brangwyn, Frank (1923). Windmills. London: The Bodley Head Limited. 


  • Alford, Roger & Horner, Libby (Ed.s), Brangwyn in his Studio. The Diary of Frank Alford, Guildford: R Alford, 2004
  • Brangwyn, Rodney, Brangwyn, London: William Kimber, 1978
  • Cava, Paul (Ed.), Frank Brangwyn Photographs: Nude and Figure Studies, 2001, Paul Cava Fine Art, Bala Cynwyd, PA
  • Cole, Diana de Vere, Brangwyn in Perspective: the life and work of Sir Frank Brangwyn 1867-1956, The One Roof Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-9535824-3-3
  • Bunt, Cyril, The Water-Colours of Sir Frank Brangwyn RA, Leigh-on-Sea, Frank Lewis, 1958
  • Furst, Herbert, The Decorative Art of Frank Brangwyn, London: John Lane, The Bodley Head Ltd, 1924
  • Galloway, Vincent, The Oils and Murals of Sir Frank Brangwyn RA, Leigh-on-Sea, Frank Lewis, 1962
  • Gaunt, William, The Etchings of Frank Brangwyn RA, London: The Studio Limited, 1926
  • Horner, Libby, A Humble Offering to the People of Walthamstow. Being a short history of the William Morris Gallery and Brangwyn Gift, Stanford: L Horner, 2008
  • Horner, Libby, Christ's Hospital Murals, Stanford: L Horner, 2008
  • Horner, Libby & Naylor, Gillian (Ed.s), Frank Brangwyn 1867-1956, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Groeningemuseum/Arents House, 2007. [1]
  • Frank Brangwyn, A Mission to Decorate Life[Text by Libby Horner]
  • Sparrow, Walter Shaw, The Spirit of the Age, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1905
  • Sparrow, Walter Shaw, Frank Brangwyn and his Work, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, 1915
  • Sparrow, Walter Shaw, Prints and drawings by Frank Brangwyn, London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1919
  • Windsor, Alan, Brangwyn, Sir Frank William (1867–1956), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 [2]


  1. ^ Libby Horner, Frank Brangwyn. A Mission to Decorate Life, The Fine Art Society & Liss Fine Art, p238
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography accessed 14 Aug 2008
  3. ^ Libby Horner and Gillian Naylor (Eds), Frank Brangwyn 1867-1956, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Groeningemuseum/Arents House, 2007, p27
  4. ^ Libby Horner, Frank Brangwyn. A Mission to Decorate Life, The Fine Art Society & Liss Fine Art, p245
  5. ^ B. Pepper (1998) The Mosaic of St Aidan's, pp 119-124 in L. S. Tate Aspects of Leeds ISBN 1-871647-38-X
  6. ^ St Aidan's church website
  7. ^ Libby Horner, Frank Brangwyn. A Mission to Decorate Life, The Fine Art Society & Liss Fine Art, p21-22
  8. ^ Libby Horner, Frank Brangwyn. A Mission to Decorate Life, The Fine Art Society & Liss Fine Art, p137
  9. ^ MacIntyre, Ben (8 November 2008). "The power of war posters". The Times (London). Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  10. ^ History of the Branwyn Panels
  11. ^ BBC Wales Brangwyn Hall & The Empire Panels
  12. ^ Anon (1933). "The Spring Exhibition, 1933 (catalogue)". RBSA. 
  13. ^ Clifford Musgrave, 'Sir Frank Brangwyn RA', The Studio, April 1953, p136
  14. ^ "Introduction to Yoshijiro (Mokuchu) Urushibara". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  15. ^ Libby Horner, Frank Brangwyn. A Mission to Decorate Life, The Fine Art Society & Liss Fine Art
  16. ^ Marius Gombrich (12 March 2010). "Painting the spirit that built great empires". The Japan Times. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 

17 'Venice' - F. Brangwyn - 50x50 (by permission of F.J.Fry, Esq.) published in 'Pictures of 1897', Royal Academy, published by Pall Mall Publications.

External links[edit]