Tuesday, July 17, 2007


When I recently posted a drawing by Frank Brangwyn (1867 - 1956), I was surprised to hear how Brangwyn-- once one of the most famous artists in the world-- had faded from memory.

Early in his career, Brangwyn was touted as "the Rembrandt of tomorrow." Then fashion took a sharp turn toward modernism, and Brangwyn quickly became yesterday's news.

One such modernist group, the Futurists, wrote a wonderful manifesto:

We want to deliver [art] from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries.

To admire an old picture is to pour our sensibility into a funeral urn instead of casting it forward with violent spurts of creation and action. Do you want to waste the best part of your strength in a useless admiration of the past....?

For the dying, for invalids and for prisoners it may be all right. It is, perhaps, some sort of balm for their wounds, the admirable past, at a moment when the future is denied them. But we will have none of it, we, the young, strong and living Futurists!
I get a kick out of the Futurist manifesto, but on my little oasis in blogland we do not judge art on the basis of manifestoes, fashion trends or market statistics. Strip away the politics of the art establishment and judge these once again as pure drawing.

Just as with the studies of Edwin Austin Abbey, Brangwyn's working drawings enable you to see his talent in mid-flight. Note his theatrical instincts as he searches for just the right dramatic pose.

He ain't no Rembrandt, but there's a lot still to be learned from a great talent like this.


Anonymous said...

Yep, I can see definitely see how much Brangwyn influenced Dean Cornwell. Nice pics.

Anonymous said...

Every time I see images like this, I am amazed and upset by how far the bar has fallen for both illustrators and fine artists of today. How meticulously these old guys planned out their pictures, how much skill they had, how creative they were! Its hard to realize that these were just preliminary sketches and not finished work! Thanks for posting these (where do you find this stuff?).

Andrew Smith said...

gee whiz! those are some beautiful studies.
But, you mentioned that Brangwyn isn't on the level of an artist like Rembrandt.
I don't think anyone would question the greatness of Brangwyn's drawings but what makes him not as good as Rembrandt? What is the difference between artistic greatness and artistic genius?

Anonymous said...

I adore Brangwyn's work and have seen quite enough of his mural work in books to think that in some ways he was just as good as rembrandt. There's a point at which the quality of the work is so high and the personality of the work so different, (Let's say among Ingres, Rembrandt, Fechin and Brangwyn) that it is enough to say "these guys are all geniuses!"and leave it at that.

Here's me: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=101106

David Apatoff said...

Andrew and Kevin-- although I strongly prefer Rembrandt, I think your comments are fair. Rembrandt was a great innovator, with astonishing breadth and depth and, above all, great humanity. But the premise of this posting on Brangwyn was that we should look at the drawings by themselves, detached from all the hype and external considerations about the artist. And I agree that some of these drawings hold up very well.

Kevin, I enjoyed looking at your online portfolio-- you do good work, and I'll be back to comment on it.

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of your blog for some time. Thank you for posting these beautiful images for everyone to appreciate. Keep up the good work.

Rachel said...

It's amazing how much can be conveyed... with a whisper of a line or a breath of a shadow.
Brangwyn does more than show you a drawing, he makes you feel, smell, and taste the soul of the subject.

Great blog. I'll be coming back!

Michael Suib said...

This is a very nice blog!

Do you have any clue about an illustrator probably from 1940'-50s who signed his name in block letters SANCHEZ. I found 2 pieces of original art one looks like a pulp fiction cover or?