Native Nurse
by Sir Frank Brangwyn R.A.

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Artist biography

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Frank Brangwyn first worked as an assistant to his father, William Brangwyn, who was a church architect and textile designer in Bruges. He studied briefly at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington, London, during the 1870s, and from 1882 to 1884 worked in William Morris's studio at Merton Abbey, designing tapestries. His early paintings show the influence of Millet and of Dutch and Belgian Realists, while a series painted in Cornwall during the mid 1880s (exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists, London) show the growing influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and Whistler. Journeys to the Middle East, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Japan in the early 1890s gave him a taste for exoticism, and led him to employ a brighter palette ( Slave Market, 1892; Atkinson Art Gallery, Stockport) and to move decisively to Symbolism and above all Art Nouveau.

He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1885 and held his first solo exhibition in London in 1891. His success at the Paris Salon two years later brought him an internatinal acclaim that was confirmed by his designs for Siegfried Bing's Maison de l'Art Nouveau in Paris in 1895. His first important British commission was for a series of murals for Skinners' Hall in London (1901-1909). Later murals include those for the Venice Biennales of 1905 and 1907 (City Art Gallery, Leeds); for the Cuyahoga County Court House, Cleveland, Ohio (1912); for the State Capitol, Jefferson City, Missouri (1915); for the church of St Aidan, Leeds (1909-1916); and for the Rockefeller Center, New York (1930-1934). The panels he created for the House of Lords (1924-1933) on themes relating to the British Empire - a project he regarded as the highpoint of his career - are now in the Guildhall in Swansea, Wales. Crowded with figures and painted with bold colours, his murals were strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris, by Continental Symbolism, and also, in their detail, by elements of Realism.

A prolific etcher and engraver, he illustrated many books, including The Thousand and One Nights, and works by Cervantes and Rudyard Kipling, and worked for several publications, including The Graphic, The Idler, and Scribner's. He created many large-scale lithographs, usually representing urban landscapes, ports, towns and cities (including many Continental views). He also designed ceramics and furniture.

Group Exhibitions

2004, The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (travelling exhibition)

Solo Exhibitions

1952, Royal Academy, London (the first retrospective of his work)
2003, Arentshuis Museum, Bruges
2006, Frank Brangwyn: A Mission to Decorate Life, Fine Art Society, London

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Brighton (Mus. & AG): Ancona (c. 1937, oil on canvas)
Brussels (MBA): Mine; Gondola Boatyard in Venice; Hammersmith; Church in Montreuil-sur-Mer; Boatbuilders in Venice; Santa Maria de la Salute; Bridge
Cardiff (Nat. Mus. of Wales): Bacchanal (oil on canvas); Susanna and the Elders (1907, oil on canvas); Entry of the Welsh Troops into Jerusalem (1920, oil on canvas); A Tank in Action (1925-1926, oil on canvas)
Glasgow: Burial at Sea
Leeds (City AG): A Venetian Funeral (oil on canvas); Still-life: Fruit and Flagons (oil on canvas); Old Kew Bridge (1905, oil on canvas, panels made for the Venice biennale); numerous other paintings
Leeds (St Aidan's Church): Episodes in the Life of St Aidan (1912-1916, mosaic)
London (Imperial War Mus.): collection of posters from WWI
London (Royal Academy of Arts): The Market Stall (1919, oil on canvas, competition piece)
London (Tate Collection): The Poulterer's Shop (exhibited in 1916, oil on canvas); lithographs
Munich: Landscape
St Petersburg (Gosudarstvennyj Russkij Muz.): Market in Bouchire
Sydney (AG of New South Wales): The Golden Horn (c. 1900, oil on canvas)