The artist who looked to the east
THE 150th anniversary of the birth of the multi-talented Frank Brangwyn (1867–1956) is being marked by Walthamstow’s William Morris Galley with an exhibition of items from the artist’s own collection. ‘Sheer Pleasure —Frank Brangwyn and the Art of Japan’ runs from February 4 to May 14. Reflecting his special interest in Japanese art, alongside woodblock prints by Japanese masters Yashima Gakutei (right) and Utagawa Hiroshige, the gallery will display examples of Brangwyn’s collaborative work with noted printmaker Yoshijiro Urushibara.
One of Brangwyn’s featured paintings, Swans, completed in 1920, also reflects the Japanese influence. A protégé of William Morris, Brangwyn is estimated to have produced more than 12,000 works in his lifetime, including oils, lithographs, designs for furniture and stained-glass panels. He was the first artist to be given a Royal Academy retrospective while still living and the William Morris Gallery’s collection of his works is second (in size) only to that of the British Museum.
Despite an international reputation, Brangwyn divided opinion, deemed a suspect avant-gardist by some and an Establishment lackey by others. He spent the increasingly reclusive second half of his life in the South Downs village of Ditchling. Jack Watkins