Some artists are classes in painting, others in printing, engraving, sculpture but Brangwyn is no lesson he's an entire Pre- Diploma course, that dates one doesn't it?
The first thing with Brangwyn is the draughtsmanship, drawing to draw your breath, forensic observation and exuberant application, drawings that drip with ego, he could really do it and he knew it. I first had Frank thrust at me in an etching class, chiaroscuro was demanded and Frank (understudy for Rembrandt) would demonstrate it. My drawing, printing tutor, the principal of my first art school, George Willott, styled himself on the Edwardian artists such as Brangwyn. In velvet jacket and cascading bow tie George could produce a Rubenesque life drawing with the flourishes of an Italian operatic conductor, bravura, while giving a tutorial to forty, great stuff.
Frank was born in Bruges and grew in a creative and artistic milieu. At the age of seven his family moved back to England, at seventeen he exhibited at the Royal Academy, an amazingly successful career had begun. In 1936 Brangwyn presented Bruges with over 400 works, they are housed in the Arents House Museum where I had an ecstatic time last week, the wood cuts are astonishing and the large drawings for the Stations of the Cross are stunning. Brangwyn worked on a huge scale, murals, tapestries, it is renaissance in scope and the massive preparatory work in the museum for one of the British Empire Panels is incredible. It harks back to his adolescent time spent in the workshops of William Morris, Frank is a forgotten hero, he needs getting out, dusting down, and sticking back on the shelf.
I got another buzz in Bruges when I discovered that my rental was on the street that had been home to Alfred Gilbert, the great English sculptor. He left England in 1901 and lived in artistic exile in Bruges for 25 years. He is the grandfather of the artist Stephen Gilbert.
Gilbert made the most beautiful things, his art nouveau sensibilities can render you speechless but get beyond gloss and glamour, the Victorian veneers and you will find real genius. Donatello could do the homo erotic but Gilbert runs him a close second. Don't linger too long on those gleaming lissom limbs, it could be your road to Perdition. What the hell, always loved a long linger. Find some of Gilbert's small things, look at the drawings and the portraiture, it's brilliant stuff.
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AGED AND AWKWARD